♫ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? ♫ – Redux

In light of yet another mass shooting in the U.S., this one in Virginia Beach where 11 died and 6 others were injured, this song, though I have played it here before, seems to be the most appropriate one.  One line, the very last line, always stands out at times like this:  When will we ever learn?


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

25 thoughts on “♫ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? ♫ – Redux

  1. Pete Seeger was a hero of mine. He played the Winnipeg Folk Festival a number of times, and always clised the last day’s show. He would play “Flowers,” and then he would close with “Good Night, Irene.” You could hear the festival crowd walking away from the site, no matter where they were going, singing “Good night.”
    But we will only learn when we stand up and ban all firesrms, and the makers of firearms. THEY SERVE NO USEFUL PURPOSE IN TODAY’S SOCIETY, except to make weak men feel brave. They want to be able to shoot living beings, put them in an unescapable arena and let them shoot each other until there is only one left standing. Then hang the bastard who is left. We don’t need shooters in today’s world, we need makers of peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I knew that Seeger was a hero of yours, though I don’t recall if you’ve told me or if I just assumed it. You’re right about firearms … if nobody had them, the world would be a much safer, happier place. Personally, I would like to see them banned, but we both know that is never going to happen. That they only allow weak men to feel brave is one of the most astute statements I’ve heard on the topic … spot on. I fear it will never change, at least not in the U.S., for the gun freaks place more value on their guns than on their own kids. Sigh.

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        • No, while I would love to believe that a society that did not need police at all is possible, I am a realist and I know better. Police in the UK do not all carry guns, but some do. In this country, I suspect they all must, for we have so many guns in the hands of civilians. However, I strongly advocate better screening and training for police officers, and any who abuse their power ought to be terminated from the force immediately.

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      • Or their wives. Mind you, there are enough women “patriots” to prove it is not only men who think with their penile equivalents. Though I find it hard to understand a woman not caring if her kid gets shot. I guess it will never happen to them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • ‘Tis true that some women in this country are gun advocates, in fact two of my female friends fit that bill. And, of course, I have written on two occasions of women who placed their right to a gun ahead of their kids’ lives. But, for the most part, I think women are less likely to be gun nuts, to want multiple guns in their home with their children. I read a piece the other day that said almost all mass shootings are committed by men. Now, I’m not exonerating women here, just saying I think they are less likely to be gun freaks.

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  2. A solemn and timely song, we should reflect on the tragedy that our nation has devolved into. Sadly gov’t will continue doing nothing and more will perish unnecessarily. Mr. Seeger sings with such heart and compassion, thanks for sharing. ❤

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    • Totally agree, never trust the government to do what’s best for the people they supposedly represent. Especially when BOTH parties gladly suckle NRA teats. Why do you think gun policy never changes regardless of the party in power, despite all the mass murders, gang shootings, and accidental gun related deaths. It’s all about the Benjamins, so unfortunately for us in a capitalist society we basically have to accept it or move to a “safer” country. I’ll check the stats, seemingly gun violence has been rising worldwide.

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    • I will never believe that myth that “more guns make us safer”. All you have to do is look at the data, study the statistics of countries that do not allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to own a gun. Sigh.

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  3. Jill, when we ever learn. New verse:

    “Where have all the young men gone? Gone to class everone. Where have all the young men gone? Gunned down everyone. Where have all the young women gone? They were gunned down, too. Where have all the flowers gone? Parents picked them everyone.”

    Keith

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