Friday, January 31, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

My Rainbow Race
By Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round, who could ask for more?
And because I love you I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race, it's too soon to die

Some folks want to be like an ostrich
Bury their heads in the sand
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands

Some hope to take the easy way
Poisons, bombs, they think we need 'em
Don't you know you can't kill all the unbelievers?
There's no shortcut to freedom

One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round, who could ask for more?
And because I love you I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race, it's too soon to die

Go tell, go tell all the little children
Tell all the mothers and fathers too
Now's our last chance to learn to share
What's been given to me and you

One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round, who could ask for more?
And because I love you I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race, it's too soon to die

One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round, who could ask for more?





I'm sure you're all well aware that singer and activist Pete Seeger died a few days ago, aged 94. He left us more famous songs than this one — We Shall Overcome, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Little Boxes, my favourite Guantanamera, and many more — but he himself wrote only a few of them, though he adapted the others and made them his own.  What stirring songs they all were! He never gave up trying to inspire us by his songs to make the world a better place.

Some songs are such great poetry that the lyrics can stand alone. Songs by Dylan and Cohen spring to mind. Most of Pete Seeger's songs are inseparable from the music, relying on repetitions which are wonderful when sung but could be a tad boring as words on a page. In My Rainbow Race, which he wrote in 1971, the words are softer and the alternating of verse and chorus more conventional, so it works without the music too. It's a peace song of course, and I think it can work as an environmental song as well. I like the focus on what is right with our world, rather than emphasising what is wrong — though that is not shirked.

But a song deserves its music; to hear it, go to this YouTube link.

Pete Seeger's story is well known, I believe. If you would like full details, the link on his name, above, takes you to the Wikipedia article. And there's another take on it in Bruce Springsteen's speech at Seeger's 90th birthday celebration.

At 91 he was still actively supporting Amnesty. At 92 he was participating in Occupy Wall Street. He always supported such causes not only with his presence but also his music. He believed that was what his music was for — and I believe his music will live. He seems to have had a great capacity for joy, and in his old age he delighted in teaching schoolchildren in his neighbourhood about both singing and life. A man of idealism and true simplicity, he will be — in the words of a Bob Dylan song which Seeger himself recorded in 2011 — 'forever young'.



Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

13 comments:

  1. What a master piece.....I can't even think of...writing this kind of verse...so touching so truthful
    loved reading every bit of it

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    1. True! I might wish I'd written it, but such simple, touching truthfulness — as you say — is very special, and probably difficult to achieve for most of us. It needs that very special soul behind it!

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  2. Forever young, indeed. And made the world a better place with his songs and his vision.

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    1. I think people will always bless his memory.

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  3. I'm listening to the song now. I have all of his music. I was surprised to see this here--but shouldn't be surprised. Bless you for ending the week with this lovely song, Rosemary. For me he will never die.

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    1. (Smile.) No, perhaps you should not have been surprised. Though it's not my first priority, I do try to be a little bit topical when appropriate, and to honour the great as they leave us — and leave their great legacy with us.

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  4. Rosemary, thank you for this wonderful share. Pete Seeger was always one of my heroes. The poem of his you shared moved me greatly, as it was unfamiliar to me.

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    1. Yes, it was one of his earlier ones. I was pleased to find something so lovely, which not everybody would be familiar with. (Most of his wonderful songs, of course, we could all practically sing along to in our sleep!)

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  5. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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