Sunday, May 03, 2009

Where have all the flowers gone?




On the plane, he pulled out his pocket-size song notebook: "Leafing through it, I came across three lines I'd written down, oh, at least a year or two before: 'Where are the flowers, the girls have plucked them. Where are the girls, they've all taken husbands. Where are the men, they're all in the army.'"

He'd read this in a novel by Mikhail Sholokhov, And Quiet Flows the Don; the three lines came from a Ukrainian folk song. For a year he had searched around for the original song, then given up, jotting down this fragment in hopes of using it some day. This time he glanced at the words, and "things just slipped into place."
The creation of one of the greatest lean forward songs of all time described in How Can I From Keep Singing: Pete Seeger by David Dunaway. Many happy returns to Pete who is 90 today. He sings 'Where have all the flowers gone?' with Arlo Guthrie in the video when still a youthful 74. Pete Seeger is a global treasure, as Benjamin Britten confirmed. More Pete Seeger paths here.

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6 comments:

Pliable said...

Two new books on Pete Seeger are published to mark his 90th birthday -

http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2009/05/two_compelling_new_pete_seeger.html

Pliable said...

There was an excellent documentary on Pete Seeger on BBC Radio 4 last night (May 1), which is being repeated at 1500h BST on May 4. The first link below has transcribed excerpts from the programme, the second is the iPlayer link (only available to May 9)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8027215.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00k2nkx

Once again the BBC have shown with Radio 4 that they can produce intelligent and informed radio. What a contrast to the cringe inducing banalities of Radio 3.

I dipped into the latter network last week but was forced to re-tune to Radio 4 after a few minutes of vacuous chatter by a classical-jock which included the following - 'the organist playing the organ on that recording was Simon Preston'.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Pliable - Back in the 60's I heard Pete Seeger perform a number of times, and was also fortunate enough to find and purchase a used "Pete Seeger" model Gibson banjo (it's three frets longer than usual) which has been a treasured musical companion ever since.

Your "lean forward" comment just begins to describe the effect that banjo has on people. Just last night I played it in a Dixieland group at a fund raiser, and as always, some people came up to say how they loved banjo music. There was a "Peanuts" cartoon way back that said everyone should be issued a banjo at birth.

Also back in the 60's Pete Seeger put together a book called "How to play the 5 string Banjo" and it's one of the best instructional books I've ever used for any instrument. It lays out all the info and ways of playing the banjo in simple, straight forward language. It lets you learn what you want, how you want.

Scott said...

Good article.

"He sings 'Where have all the flowers gone?' with Arlo Guthrie in the video"

Just in case anyone is uncertain, Guthrie is the one in the shadows on the far left in the wide shots. The one beside Seeger is Tao Rodriguez, I believe.

Pliable said...

Scott, as ever, well clarified.

And, of course, Tao Rodriguez is Pete Seeger's grandson -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Rodriguez-Seeger

Pliable said...

Report on Pete's 90th birthday concert in the NYT -

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/arts/music/05seeg.html?_r=1&emc=eta1