Songs

First Amendment Banjo
Come gather 'round, you singing folk,
And listen to my tale,
About this long, lean banjo man
Who loved to sing and frail.
When many songs were lost and gone
Or hidden out of sight,
He found that frabjous music
And he sang with all his might.

He sang with all his might, my boys,
And people gathered 'round,
They followed him where'er he went
To hear the joyful sound.
The girls and boys who followed him,
They loved his singing way,
They picked up flutes and strung up lutes
And learned to sing and play.

And all the world is singing now
That never sang before,
The treasury of hearty song
Made richer with the store.
And who would take this singing man
Who purely loves to frail,
And wrest him from the world of life
And muffle him in jail!

And who is so afraid of song
And truth that's bravely said,
And who so fears the singing kind
To wish their singing dead?
They hailed his banjo into court
And stood it at the bar,
Because it would not tune its strings
To cruelty and war.

Oh, gather 'round, you singing folk,
And sing along with me,
A song to ring around the world
And set that banjo free.
Oh, gather 'round, you singing folk,
And clearly sing along
A song of truth and liberty,
That will not suffer wrong--
And Pete will lead the song.

We’re happy to present a pair of songs about Pete Seeger, 90 years old as of May 3 and still going strong. The first, by Malvina Reynolds, dates back to 1961, when Pete was under indictment for contempt of Congress and had been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for refusing to answer “any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs” before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction was overturned on appeal in 1962.

Nancy Schimmel, Malvina's daughter, writes in her blog, web.mac.com/nancyschimmel: I went to the office to get copies of a couple of obscure Malvina songs, “El Cortito (The Short-Handled Hoe)” and “The Field Workers’ Song” for Ted Warmbrand and accidentally found a song my mother had written about Pete. Since folks around the country are celebrating Pete’s ninetieth birthday by getting together and singing, here’s that song. You would think a song about somebody whose forte is getting everybody to sing along would have a chorus, but this doesn’t.

Not only does it lack a chorus, it doesn’t even pause between stanzas; it’s as relentless as a banjo ballad.

A facsimile of Malvina’s manuscript can be seen here. Guitar players may wonder about the B♭ chord three bars from the end, but it’s pretty clear in the manuscript, and it makes sense when you play it.



Man of Song
Chorus:
Man of peace, man of song.
Peace to the people singing along.
Long life and health, may your spirit be strong!
Man of peace, man of song.

Verses:
He grew up with music to nurture his soul.
To sing for the voiceless became his life goal.
To never stop working to right what was wrong,
He traveled the world with his music and song.

He sang against Hitler with Woody and Sis.
The chance to make changes he never would miss.
He sang for the unions, out on the line,
For workers who labored in mill and in mine.

He fought Joe McCarthy, and the H-U-A-C
For the right to speak out, and for liberty.
He sang out for freedom, and for civil rights,
Against war and injustice, for all the good fights.

“Guantanamera,” “We SHALL Overcome”,
“If I had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
“Waist Deep in the Muddy,” “Die Gedanken Sind Frei”
To tell his “Rainbow Race” it's too soon to die.

He stood up to tyrants, his banjo in hand
Until his song echoed throughout every land.
A voice and a life to inspire us on
Through dark days and hard nights straight into the dawn.

So here’s to Pete Seeger, 90 years young—
Long may his song and his story be sung,
The whole world to listen, the whole world to hear,
The whole world in harmony many a year!

Club member Mark Levy wrote this in response to a call for songs celebrating Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday. He says it came to him in a dream—he and Pete were singing and playing together, and when he woke up, the chorus was still going through his head. You can see and hear Mark perform this song at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTYU1I436QA.


The folknik song pages are lovingly produced by Kay Eskenazi, John Kelly, and Barbara Millikan. John Kelly produced the song pages for this issue.

If you'd like to submit a song for possible publication, please send a score, tape/CD or (preferably) both to --

Copyright for all songs published on this page remains with the authors.