Kelly In Catty

This blog is Kell's attempt to keep in touch with friends far away who complain that I don't e-mail nearly enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Last Sunday, I went to see a tribute concert entitled “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” At the start of the concert, a slightly stooped old man walked onto the stage, carrying an open-back banjo. The audience immediately leapt to their feet and cheered. The 86-year old Pete Seeger had yet to say a word. Already, it was a cool show.

In 1950, Pete Seeger founded a magazine called Sing Out! It was a publication birthed from a New York City-based urban folk co-op called People’s Artists. Pete used the magazine to share not only political and labor-related tunes, but also songs by up-and-coming folk, gospel, and blues artists. The magazine survived severe financial problems – yet always managed to restructure and continue.

Today, Sing Out! Magazine is not only one of the world’s foremost resources on current music, but houses the largest folk-music inventory that I know about. They publish Pete’s autobiography, and the famous folk music sing-a-long book, “Rise Up Singing.” The actual magazine is published 4 times/year – and is accompanied by a 20-song CD sampler of today’s best and brightest folk artists. (I’m plugging, I know – but if you’re interested,

My friend, Scott is the managing editor – and thought that since the 55th anniversary of the magazine coincided with Pete’s “retirement” from writing his “Appleseeds” Column, a tribute was in order. I can’t believe a) how much work the show was, b) how great the show was, and c) how many amazing artists were willing to fly in from all over the place – just to sing two songs and do a finale with Pete Seeger.

Holly Near, Stephan Smith, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ginny Hawker & Tracy Schwartz, Janis Ian, Odetta, Judy Collins, Bruce Cockburn (my favorite!), Natalie Merchant, and Pete’s old band mate, Ronnie Gilbert (one of the original “Weavers”) attended. Many of the performers sang a capella (Can we expect anything less from ‘Sweet Honey in The Rock’s Bernice?).

The evening was full of the required political songs, but many of the artists sang funny folk songs – about English being a crazy language and how self-important people should write their autobiographies. Ronnie Gilbert then read a passage from HER autobiography, where she talked about Pete Seeger’s involvement in the progressive party – and sang of how both donkeys and elephants made up the merry-go-round...

In all – a generous evening full of exceptional and generous musicians. During the evening, I sat next to a reporter, who told me all the artists had to submit their song requests. Several asked to sing, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Pete himself planned on playing it – but gave it to Bruce Cockburn because he liked that version better (Recorded on Appleseed Recordings' "Where Have All The Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger," available at Scott tells me that Natalie Merchant walked around back stage calling Pete “Mr. Seeger” all evening. All the artists let us sing along. The evening ended with the audience singing “Goodnight Irene.”

For me, it was cool to sing "The Hammer Song," (which I've been singing all my life) with one of its authors.

Fran and I then had coffee with the reporter – and went home thinking the evening was even better than we thought it could be. So. Happy Anniversary, Sing Out! You really know how to throw a party. And Pete? You can retire, but you can’t stop singing!


  • At 11:33 AM, Blogger Trixie said…

    Who Knew ?

    Well..duh...obviously you did.

    Still I found this very insightful and have forwarded the link to a friend who has a folk band/country/bluegrass group in Greenbelt, MD.


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