This is a story that to the best of my recollection begins about 44 years ago, just after I discovered a young folk singer named Bob Dylan. As many people no doubt found, getting hip to Dylan was just the beginning of what would become a journey into the roots of American music and beyond.
Once I found out that one of Dylan’s influences was Woody Guthrie, I began to search in earnest for other musicians that were in the same genre and quickly ran into Cisco Houston, Leadbelly, Dave Van Ronk and of course, Pete Seeger. Most of these players are an acquired taste, but of them all (many more of course), Pete Seeger is by far the most accessible and one of my all time favorites.
I have collected many of his recorded works on CD and can clearly remember the times I would rock my youngest daughter to sleep listening to one of Seeger’s many children’s concerts. He was a master of the sing-a-long and rarely recorded an album in the studio.
One of the most magical times in my life was seeing Pete in concert in Detroit, Michigan, sometime in the mid-seventies. The seats I had were way up in the balcony but the moment Pete walked on the stage singing “John Henry” the whole auditorium came alive and you could almost touch the electricity in the air. It was “dream-come-true” time for the next couple of hours as the master and his banjo weaved a web of Americana that I can still feel today.
Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday is Sunday, May 3rd, and his party will be held at 5:00 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Lots of popular musicians will be there and tickets are in the $90 to $250 range. It would be great to be there but I guess I will stay in Boone and mow the yard or work in the garden.
A couple of days ago, I was thinking about Pete and burned a couple of his early albums onto my Ipod. One of them is entitled “God Bless the Grass” and features a song named “The Power and the Glory”. As I was listening to it this morning, I was struck by the fact that even though I didn’t always agree with his politics, Pete stayed true to his vision and that is as American as it gets.
In light of what is happening in the United States at this point in history (swine flu, toxic mortgages, bankrupt car companies, etc, etc.) I thought the text of this song is very apropos to where we are at. So, without further ado (and BIlly Shields too) here is “The Power and the Glory”.
Come and take a walk with me
Through this green and growing land
Walk through the meadows and the mountains and the sand
Walk through the valleys and the rivers and the plains
Walk through the sun and walk through the rain
Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh, her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all
(On us all)
From Colorado, Kansas and the Carolinas too
Virginia and Alaska, from the old to the new
Texas and Ohio and the California shore
Tell me, who could ask for more?
Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door
Only as strong as our love for this land
Only as tall as we stand
©BARRICADE MUSIC INC
Here’s the downsampled mp3 version of the song <a href="/files/49366-44812/01_The_Power_And_The_Glory_1.mp3″>The Power and the Glory