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Tue, January 28, 2014
Pete Seeger - I Can See A New Day (5/3/1919 - 1/27/14)
Peter "Pete" Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014) was an American folk singer. A fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, he also had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of The Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene", which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. Members of The Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. In the 1960s, he re-emerged on the public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture and environmental causes.
As a song writer, he is best known as the author or co-author of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (with Joe Hickerson), "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" (composed with Lee Hays of The Weavers), and "Turn, Turn, Turn!", which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are still sung throughout the world. "Flowers" was a hit recording for The Kingston Trio (1962); Marlene Dietrich, who recorded it in English, German and French (1962); and Johnny Rivers (1965). "If I Had a Hammer" was a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963), while The Byrds popularized "Turn, Turn, Turn!" in the mid-1960s, as did Judy Collins in 1964 and The Seekers in 1966.
Seeger was one of the folksingers most responsible for popularizing the spiritual "We Shall Overcome" (also recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists) that became the acknowledged anthem of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement, soon after folk singer and activist Guy Carawan introduced it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. In the PBS American Masters episode "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song", Seeger stated it was he who changed the lyric from the traditional "We will overcome" to the more singable "We shall overcome".
I Can See a New Day is Pete Seeger's fifth album for Columbia Records and, like its four predecessors, was recorded live in concert. But where his previous four Columbia LPs were pegged to specific venues, all in New York City -- Story Songs at the Village Gate, The Bitter and the Sweet at the Bitter End, Children's Concert at Town Hall, and We Shall Overcome at Carnegie Hall -- no place of performance is indicated here. The inference is that I Can See a New Day has been assembled from various live tapes, and probably from unused songs recorded at the shows that provided the other albums. In fact, the characteristic echo of Carnegie Hall, clearly audible on many tracks, suggests that a good half of the disc is excerpted from the same June 8, 1963, show that led to We Shall Overcome. But if these are performances that were overlooked the first time around, that is not to say they are unworthy. Rather, this is a typical Seeger show, mixing folk standards like the opener, Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," with spirituals ("Oh What a Beautiful City," "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd"), and politically oriented material ranging from "Viva la Quince Brigada" (Long Live the 15th Brigade), which recalls the Spanish Civil War and gets a howlingly positive response from what sounds like an audience full of Old Lefties, to the mineworkers' laments "The Bells of Rhymney" (clearly not from the Carnegie show) and "Mrs. Clara Sullivan's Letter," both of which come from poems Seeger set to music. Of course, war is also decried, notably in the old folk song "Mrs. McGrath" (whose son comes back from war without his legs) and "I Come and Stand at Every Door," the cry of a Hiroshima victim. As all this suggests, the overall tone of the disc is serious and somewhat downcast, with only the title song, "How Can I Keep from Singing," and the new "Healing River" (co-written by Seeger's old Weavers bandmate Fred Hellerman) providing some consolation and hope. Nevertheless, the audiences sing along in solidarity, and Seeger is as earnest as ever.
A1 This Land Is Your Land 2:50
A2 Oh What A Beautiful City 2:50
A3 Healing River 1:40
A4 Follow The Drinkin' Gourd 2:25
A5 Viva La Quince Brigada 3:17
A6 Oh Louisianna 3:33
A7 The Bells Of Rhymney 4:55
B1 Go Down Old Hannah 5:35
B2 How Can I Keep From Singing 2:06
B3 Mrs. McGrath 3:12
B4 Mrs. Clara Sullivan's Letter 3:27
B5 (The Ring On My Finger Is) Johnny Give Me 2:10
B6 I Come And Stand On Every Door 5:09
B7 I Can See A New Day 2:47