♫ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? ♫

I try not to play the same song twice, but there are some notable exceptions, such as John Lennon’s Imagine, and Ebony and Ivory by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.  I just played this song by both Pete Seeger as well as Peter, Paul and Mary back in October, but in a conversation with rawgod tonight, one line from this song popped into my head … “When will they ever learn?”  And so, I replicate my post from October, for I think this is one song that will always have relevance.


This song suits my mood tonight.  I think perhaps it suits the state of our nation tonight.

Pete-Seeger-1

Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014)

Pete Seeger, who died in January 2014 at the age of 94, wrote this song, and the following is his story of how the song came to be:

“I had been reading a long novel—”And Quiet Flows the Don”—about the Don River in Russia and the Cossacks who lived along it in the 19th century. It describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Czar’s army, singing as they go. Three lines from a song are quoted in the book: ‘Where are the flowers? The girls plucked them / Where are the girls? They’re all married / Where are the men? They’re all in the army.’ I never got around to looking up the song, but I wrote down those three lines.

“Later, in an airplane, I was dozing, and it occurred to me that the line ‘long time passing’—which I had also written in a notebook—would sing well. Then I thought, ‘When will we ever learn.’ Suddenly, within 20 minutes, I had a song. There were just three verses. I Scotch-taped the song to a microphone and sang it at Oberlin College. This was in 1955.

“One of the students there had a summer job as a camp counselor. He took the song to the camp and sang it to the kids. It was very short. He gave it rhythm, which I hadn’t done. The kids played around with it, singing ‘Where have all the counselors gone? / Open curfew, everyone.’

“The counselor added two actual verses: ‘Where have all the soldiers gone? / Gone to graveyards every one / Where have all the graveyards gone? / Covered with flowers every one.’ Joe Hickerson is his name, and I give him 20 percent of the royalties. That song still brings in thousands of dollars from all around the world.”

bernie sandersThe song has been recorded by many, including Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, Olivia Newton-John and even Dolly Parton, but the one that surprised me was Bernie Sanders!  Yep, the one and only Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont apparently produced an album in 1987, 20 years before becoming a senator, titled We Shall Overcome.  Who knew?

My favourite version of the song has always been Peter, Paul & Mary’s, but tonight I came across a version Seeger did sometime late in life, playing banjo and singing, and I found it moving.  So, I am including both here, and you can pick one or listen to both.  Or neither, I suppose, but then my feelings would be hurt, so listen to at least one, ‘k?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Pete Seeger/Peter, Paul & Mary

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Songwriters: Peter Seeger
Where Have All the Flowers Gone lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

24 thoughts on “♫ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? ♫

    • It is so very appropriate for today, just as it was when it was so popular during the Vietnam War. When will we ever learn? I have to wonder if the answer isn’t “never”.

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  1. Depending upon your having read, or having survived, my dissertation on the ‘Tryin’ To Be Jolly’ post you may understand the whys and wherefores of my not commenting on this music post yesterday. I was engaged in creating my comment when Benjamin and his parental units arrived. I closed it before completion and it was lost, no worries as I can repeat it by heart and most likely, nearly verbatim from last October’s comment as I have told that story often over the years. I could, in an effort to spare you here, refer you to then…but I will not. I do not recall your comment on my comment, I shall investigate afterward when I check to see how closely I have come in duplicating that comment. Pete Seeger’s name takes me back to my early childhood, although not for his songs. It is all about a 5-String Banjo, the only instrument my Father played. I could tell you about his professional playing, but I will skip that for now. One of his greatest hopes was that all of his offspring would love and play that same banjo. Eldest sister and I were his first students and we failed miserably, try as he did and he did try. Somehow he discovered Pete Seeger’s book and vocal instructional LP “How To Play The 5-String Banjo”. I would like to say Pete succeeded where he had failed, but he did not. Nor did they with the next two siblings. It was my youngest brother, ironically the 5th in line and an early musical genius having already taught himself to play the piano at the age of 5, who was playing my Father’s beloved banjo by the age of 7. He accomplished this without my Father’s or Pete Seeger’s instructions. Youngest sister, 6th in line, fared no better than the first four…she stubbornly refused. Having given in to my propensity for loquacity, yet again, I have added more information to my story and so already know it far surpasses last October’s comment. I will not go into my love for PPM, etc. as I did then. BUT I am positive that I did not comment on Bernie Sanders, the then Vermont Mayor of Burlington,and his album of December 1987 “We Shall Overcome”. Thankfully there are some 30 Vermont singers to balance his spoken-word renditions of the songs. This album was re-released in Dec. of 2014 for his unsuccessful presidential campaign attempt and is most likely available again for this one. My Son, a then Bernie supporter, purchased the 2014 CD and thought it was a masterpiece that should be shared with me?! Thank-you!

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    • P.S. I returned to the original October post and my comment was indeed much shorter than that of today. What is more noticeable is that you didn’t comment then or even “like” it. I may now have lost a wee bit of my jolly!

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    • Curiosity piqued, I returned to the October post to see your comment there, and imagine how my world came crashing in to discover that you had shared such an interesting story of your childhood, and I had not responded to your comment! 😢 Please understand, dear Ellen, that I almost never simply fail to respond intentionally. I certainly would not have failed to respond to that comment, for it is only those for which I cannot respond except in anger that I leave alone, and yours certainly would not have stirred anger. What sometimes happens is that I get so many comments that some of them do not show up on my dashboard by the time I get around to answering comments. Or, sometimes I simply do not see one, for I am but a mere mortal and flawed as are all mortals. I owe you a sincere apology, and I tender it here and now: I am so sorry!

      Moving on … you have once again enlightened me, for I had no idea that Bernie was musically inclined! Perhaps not talented, based on what you say, however.

      Hugs, dear Ellen! And once again, please forgive my oversight in October!

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      • I’m having one of my frequent sleepless nights, lasting effects of the decades as a night nurse. I was lost in what I refer to as mindless reading, a novel that requires and demands minimal to no thinking. Not to say that it does not capture my attention, just that it has no other benefit than entertainment. When I’m reading a biography, an autobiography or other nonfiction I am more engaged. I’m tucking bits and pieces into the barren spaces that are left in the convolutions of my aging brain…in the attempt to maintain some pliability by stretching it out, thus preventing or stalling its completely shriveling up. I do not know why I go to bed and read, unlike many people it never makes me sleepy. I get caught up in a book and could stay awake to the last chapter’s very last word, unless I stop myself and close the book. At any rate, as you will soon know, my propensity for loquacity has no clock and never stops ticking! Now I find myself sitting at the computer at 4:15 AM reading. Your above comment shed some light for me on the mysterious world of blogdom, much of which is a black hole to me. I have often wondered when reading your comments on comments, how at times you seemingly skip over a particular comment for some unknown reason, then comment on the one above it. I had believed that you were reading them here in the same way that I am, that you responded to the earliest comments at the bottom of the page working up towards the most recent comment. It was quite perplexing to me how you knew that a comment was made on a post days after it was posted, but once again at times it appeared that indeed you didn’t know. I do know that some bloggers have something that holds a comment for what is called moderation before the comment posts…the blogger allows a comment to post only after checking the content. I do not think that you do that. Dear girl, no need to apologize to me. I hadn’t lost even a wee bit of my jolly. I must admit that I do immensely enjoy your comments on my comments, especially when I chide you for something! I must also admit that the banjo story is one of my favorite tales from my childhood and so often repeated that my children can tell it for me! One last thought before I move on. If you can find a Bernie Sanders video from the album, probably on YouTube, listen and laugh! Thank-you!

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        • You and I should live closer, since the majority of my nights are sleepless! I am much the same and rarely read fiction any more, but every now and again I have to, just to give myself a break from books like “How Democracies Die”, and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.

          As for how I answer comments … much depends on my mood and how much time I have. All comments are received in a notification section on our dashboard, not in order of specific posts, but rather in the order they come, regardless of what post they refer to. They are also comingled with ‘likes’, new followers, and other minutiae. I start at the very bottom and work my way up most days. Early afternoon I try to get through about half, a few more in the evening, and the rest usually don’t get answered until after midnight. However, some days I will respond to all the comments on one post rather than just sift through all the notifications. I’ll send you a screen print of what I’m talking about via email later this evening. There are a couple of people whose comments don’t show up in my notifications for some unknown reason, and if I don’t see theirs when answering somebody else’s comment, they don’t get answered. And sometimes a comment just really doesn’t prompt any answer from me, so I will just ‘like’ it and move on. Since I receive over 100 comments most days, I do occasionally miss a few, but never intentionally. I don’t moderate comments as some do, for that would cost me even more time, and time is my most precious commodity these days. Plus, it’s rare that I get a comment that I would delete, and as I keep a close eye on them throughout the day, I can usually catch them and send them off to an ‘unapproved’ file before many see them. I rarely do that, unless they are vulgar or trying to sell something. I have a funny story about that, but it will have to wait for an email for reasons that will become obvious when you hear it!

          And now, I’ve indulged in P for L, and must get to other things! I do so enjoy your comments!

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  2. One of my favorite songs! I was lucky to hear Peter Paul and Mary sing this. That inspired me to learn to play the ukulele. I must have played and sung that song a million times. Thank you for Pete Seeger’s version. It’s quite different, the way he plays the music on the banjo, plucking each note. Thank you, Jill!

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  3. Jill, Pete Seeger is truly a folk hero. This is one of several great songs. But, one of my favorite memories is Seeger told Senator Joe McCarthy of Communist witch hunt notoriety, on essence, this is the United States of America, and it does not matter if he is a communist. He may or may not have been, but he made his point. It does not matter. He was still blackballed and had to perform on the college circuit. Keith

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  4. I always loved Pete Seegers “God Bless the grass”.. I remember my parents played the album and I especially like that song, bearing tyhe same title as the album. Another favorite was the one about the rabbits!

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