January 30, 2014

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 35: Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina & goodbye, Pete Seeger

Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
reel-to-reel label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Pete Seegar died three days ago. I was sad when I heard the news and the memories of listening to him singing with The Weavers in the 50's flooded back into my mind. I wanted to do a blog entry tribute to him but when I started thinking about the hundreds of songs he'd written I got bogged down and couldn't focus. Which of those songs would I talk about? It's taken me three days to finally decide and it boiled down to one. 

I came to the conclusion that my favorite of all those beautiful and meaningful songs he wrote is the 1960 tune, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, a sad, quietly bewailing but beautiful protest song. So, now I could start; however, I knew the song but which version? There have been so many great interpretations, which was the best? And what determines what 'best' is. The Kingston Trio did an early, beautiful rendition in 1962. Peter, Paul and Mary did their's. Richie Havens had his turn in 1972, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Eddy Arnold, all took a swing at it. Johnny Rivers came up with an easy rock version; Wes Montgomery did a jazz version; Earth Wind & Fire did a soul version and the list goes on and on. It's been sung in almost every language in the world, Italian, Croatian, Polish, Czech, Chinese, etc.

Marlene Dietrich sang the song in English, French and German. This triggered my memory and I recalled that Joan Baez sang it in German as well. And I realized that of all the variations I've heard, my favorite is her interpretation, Sagt Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind, from the album, Farewell, Angelina; I have the vinyl LP version as well as the reel-to-reel tape. Her voice is beautiful in its gentle protest; it swells and uplifts in flights of wistful dreaming. It's absolutely lovely.

So, Joan is my representative for this tribute to Pete Seegar. After the photos, there is more about Seeger and there are links to music videos at the end of this article.  

Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
cover photo by Richard Avedon
photo of reel-to-reel box cover by Styrous®

 Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
reel-to-reel tape box back
photo by Styrous®

 Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®

 Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
reel-to-reel tape
photo by Styrous®

Joan Baez ~ Farewell, Angelina
reel-to-reel label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

bit of a bio

Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919, at the Midtown Manhattan French Hospital, in New York City, New York. During the summer of 1936, while traveling with his father and stepmother, Seeger heard the five-string banjo for the first time at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in western North Carolina near Asheville; it was during this festival he also discovered square-dance and family string bands, including a group of Indians from the Cherokee reservation who played string instruments and sang ballads.

In 1936, at the age of 17, Seeger joined the Young Communist League (YCL) but eventually "drifted away" (his words) from the Party in the late 1940s and 1950s.

In 1939, Seeger took a job in Washington, D.C., assisting Alan Lomax, a friend of his father's, at the Archive of American Folk Song of the Library of Congress. His job was to help Lomax sift through commercial "race" and "hillbilly" music and select recordings that best represented American folk music, a project funded by the music division of the Pan American Union (later the Organization of American States). Lomax encouraged Seeger's folk singing vocation, and Seeger was soon appearing as a regular performer on Alan Lomax and Nicholas Ray's weekly Columbia Broadcasting show Back Where I Come From (1940–41) alongside of Josh White, Burl Ives, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie.

In the spring of 1941, the twenty-one-year-old Seeger performed as a member of the Almanac Singers along with Millard Lampell, Cisco Houston, Woody Guthrie, Butch and Bess Lomax Hawes, and Lee Hays. Seeger and the Almanacs cut several albums of 78s on Keynote and other labels, Songs for John Doe (recorded in late February or March and released in May 1941). During the Communist fear panic, copies of Songs for John Doe were removed from sale, and the remaining inventory destroyed, though a few copies may exist in the hands of private collectors.

He sang on radio in the 1940's and was a member of The Weavers in the 1950's. Their recording of Goodnight, Irene, by Lead Belly, topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950.

His songs include: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song), Turn! Turn! Turn! (lyrics adapted from Ecclesiastes) which was covered by the Byrds, We Shall Overcome (also recorded by Joan Baez), and so many, many others. Link to his discography below.

Pete Seeger was 94 when he died peacefully in his sleep around 9:30 p.m., on January 27, 2014, at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. According to his grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, Seeger was still as active as ever, out chopping wood ten days prior to his death.

Track listing:

Side 1:

  1. "Farewell, Angelina" (Bob Dylan) – 3:13
  2. "Daddy, You Been on My Mind" (Bob Dylan) – 2:15
  3. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (Bob Dylan) – 3:21
  4. "The Wild Mountain Thyme" (Traditional, arranged Francis McPeake Family) – 4:34
  5. "Ranger's Command" (Woody Guthrie) – 3:13
  6. "Colours" (Donovan Leitch) – 3:02
Side 2: 
  1. "Satisfied Mind" (Joe "Red" Hayes, Jack Rhodes) – 3:22
  2. "The River in the Pines" (Traditional) – 3:33
  3. "Pauvre Ruteboeuf" ("Poor Ruteboeuf") (Léo Ferré, Ruteboeuf) – 3:28
  4. "Sagt Mir wo die Blumen sind" ("Where Have All the Flowers Gone?") (Pete Seeger) – 4:00
  5. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (Bob Dylan) – 7:36

Vanguard - VTC 1707

Links to videos:

The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time! the complete film on YouTube

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? links:
       Pete Seeger singing A cappela on YouTube 
       Pete Seeger in concert on YouTube
       Joan Baez - Sagt Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind on YouTube 
       Joan Baez in concert in English on YouTube 
       The Kingston Trio on YouTube
       Peter, Paul and Mary on YouTube
       Peter, Paul and Mary concert version on YouTube
       Marlene Dietrich on YouTube
       Johnny Rivers on YouTube    
       Earth Wind & Fire on YouTube

link to Pete Seeger discography

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? is a timeless, borderless song that has no category and will live as long as there is war, poverty and saddness in the world.
"Oh, when will they ever learn?"
                          - Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014)

Styrous® ~ Thursday, January 30, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE NOTE: comments are moderated BEFORE they are posted so DO NOT appear immediately.

Thank you.