The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #124449 Message #2749767
Posted By: Art Thieme
21-Oct-09 - 06:09 PM
Thread Name: Origins: 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'
Subject: RE: Origins: 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'
Here is an email I got from Joe a few years back.
To: kathy westra; sarah newcomb; Bob Molison; Ron Cohen; Mel McKeachie; mike michaels; lynn hickerson; nick reynolds; joani blank; Jim Ellis; joanna cazden; iuaaweb; art thieme; Ellie Shapiro; ellie hall; Delores Taller; deborah robins; richard burgess; bernard aptekar; Ann Schmid
I thought you might be interested in this historical piece which I have submitted to the SEM (Society for Ethnomusicology) Newsletter. I did a brief presentation on this at their 50th Annual Meeting in Atlanta last November.
Joyous New Year!
...here is an outline of my presentation:
10/20/55 (my 20th birthday; and one month before the advent of SEM): Pete Seeger wrote the first 3 verses of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" on an airplane on his way to do a concert at Oberlin College (in Oberlin, Ohio). He performed it that evening in concert at First Church in Oberlin. I was there, but I did not remember the song at that time. Pete's song was a paraphrase of a Cossack song text which appeared in the novel And Quiet Flows the Don, written by the Russian novelist Mikhail Sholokhov.
Early 1960: Pete's 3-verse tempo rubato rendition was issued on his Folkways LP FA 2454, Rainbow Quest. I learned the song from the LP and started singing it with guitar accompaniment at concerts and gatherings in Bloomington, Indiana . Folks liked to sing along and harmonize, but the song was so short that we repeated the 3 verses over and over.
May 1960: late one night in Bloomington I composed the 4th and 5th verses for the song, and added the 1st verse at the end, thus making it a 6-verse song.
Summer 1960: I taught my 6-verse version to campers and staff at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, NY. It became one of their top-5 favorites. In August 1960 Pete Seeger visited the camp and heard the song for the first time with my added verses. At the end of the summer, staff and campers took the song back to New York City, where it was heard by Peter, Paul, and/or Mary.
Fall 1961: The Kingston Trio heard PP&M sing it in Cambridge, MA, and rushed to record it at their next recording session.
1/20/62: The Kingston Trio single of the song hit the Billboard charts, where it remained until 4/21/62. It's appearance on Trio LPs ran from 3/10/62 to 6/6/64.
4/28/62: The song was included on PP&M's 1st LP, Peter Paul and Mary, which entered the Billboard charts on this date, and remained there until 11/6/65, achieving the number one position 7 weeks.
1962: Marlene Dietrich recorded a popular German version, "Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind," in Europe, which was subsequently covered by Joan Baez on an LP which appeared on the Billboard charts 10/23/65-4/9/66.
9/25/65: Johnny Rivers' rock version charted in Billboard through 1/22/66.
1968: Meanwhile, Ethel Raim and her group The Pennywhistlers recorded a Russian antecedent, "Kolada Duda."
1960s: there were two hit versions in Japan, These are discussed in an 80-minute Japanese documentary film on "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," in which I appear.
11/2/73: at the 18th SEM conference in Urbana, IL, Will Schmid delivered a paper entitled "Collected Variants of the Contemporary Folk Song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone." I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though my name was not mentioned.
1976: I received communications from German scholar, Dietrich Gerhardt, who had discovered an early printed version of the Russian song, and then that of a German precursor dated ca. 1750.
A coda: the December 1962 - January 63 issue of Sing Out! (vol. 12, no. 5) printed a parody of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," submitted by a graduate student at Indiana University. The gist was: Where have all the folksongs gone? Collector have taken them every one; where have all the collections gone? gone to archives every one; where have all the archives gone? pop singers raided them one by one; where have all the pop singers gone? gone to make records every one; where have all the records gone? the "folk" have bought them every one; where have all the pop songs gone? the folk are singing them every one; and where have all the folksongs gone etc.?
A who was that brash cheeky IU grad student? It was me.