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Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'

13 Jan 07 - 10:32 PM (#1935833)
Subject: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: Joe_F

Where did Pete Seeger get the story?
Is it true?


  The navigator said to the engineer,
I think our radio's dead.
I can hear but I can't send,
And there's bad weather ahead.
The pilot said to the co-pilot,
Our right engine's gone.
But if we can make it over these mountains,
Perhaps I can set her down.
All my children of the sun!

Five hundred miles from nowhere
We bellylanded on a river.
We bid a quick goodbye
To that ship of silver.
Twenty-five piled out the window,
Twenty reached the shore.
We turned to see our metal bird
Sink to rise no more.
All my children of the sun!

We found some floating logs,
We found some sharp stones,
We cut some vines and made a raft.
It was our only hope.
The navigator said he thought there was
A town somewhere downstream.
So now each tried to do his best
To paddle as a team.

All except one young guy
Who kept arguing with the navigator.
He said he'd read about a waterfall
We would come to sooner or later.
At a river's bend he persuaded us
To bring our craft to beach.
But a search party found the river smooth
As far as eye could reach.
All my children of the sun.

Once again he persuaded us to stop.
We cursed at the delay.
Once again we found the river
Flowing on the same old way.
We said, shut up your arguing.
You give us all a pain.
Why don't you pitch in and go your part--
Be constructive for a change?
All my children of the sun.

Still egghead kept on talking
In the same longwinded way,
We said, if you won't paddle,
Get the hell out of our way.
We told him to go sit
Far back at the stern.
Then we strained to paddle harder,
And then the river made a turn.
All my children of the sun.

One paddler heard sound of tapping
And what he saw, when he did turn,
Was egghead with a sharp stone,
Cutting the vines that bound the stern.
With a cry of rage the paddler
Leaped up to his feet,
He swung his long pole
Knocked egghead into the deep.
But now the logs were splaying out.
The raft had come unbound.
Like mad we paddled for the shore,
Before all would drown.
All my children of the sun.

A search party went out to find more vines
To tie the raft up tight.
In twenty minutes they returned,
Their faces pale with fright.
They said a quarter mile down river
We DID find a waterfall.
It's over a hundred feet in height.
It would have killed us all.
All my children of the sun.

And that is why on the banks
Of a far off wilderness stream,
Which none of us, none of us,
Will ever see again,
There stands a cross for someone,
Hardly older than a boy.
Who, we thought, was only
Trying to destroy.
All my children of the sun.

Words & Music by Pete Seeger (1969)

© 1969 by Sanga Music Inc.

13 Jan 07 - 11:19 PM (#1935855)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Joe -
for the sake of discussion, I added the lyrics from the link to your post. The best darn book about Pete Seeger songs is his Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - A Singer's Stories, Songs, Seeds, & Robberies (edited by Peter Blood Sing Out! - 1993). Here's what Pete says about the song:
    Some parts of the world (Japan is one) like songs in a minor mode. Some individuals also. Most of us now go back and forth easily - too easily? - from one mode to another. The next song, like the last two (I Have a Rendezvous With Death and The Torn Flag), is in a minor key.
    The weakness of any allegory, here, or in the Bible or anywhere, is that it can be too pat. The "meaning" of a work of art should shift, change, expand. However, this allegory worked. I've had requests for it 20 years later. Today the "eggheads" are warning us about the oxone (sic) layer, global warming, overpopulation, etc.
Most of the time, the book gives wonderful background stories for songs, but I have to say that this is one time when Pete's explanation of a song is a bit cryptic. Since he says it's an "allegory," I would suppose it's fictional - but maybe not necessarily so.
Interesting question, although I can't say this is one of my favorite Pete Seeger songs.

-Joe Offer-

14 Jan 07 - 12:59 AM (#1935921)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: EBarnacle

My understanding is that the song is based upon an actual incident. I believe it occurred in South America.

14 Jan 07 - 09:56 AM (#1936151)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: Uncle_DaveO

The story of the song sounds interesting, and instructive. I'd love to hear it.

BUT! What does "All my children of the sun" have to do with it?

Dave Oesterreich

14 Jan 07 - 11:38 AM (#1936216)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: Bee

Perhaps the line was intended to give a tropical feel to the song, an Amazonian hint to further the idea of being lost on a big river and not knowing what's ahead.

14 Jan 07 - 06:29 PM (#1936644)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: Susanne (skw)

Unfortunately, Jim Musselman's notes from the "Songs of Pete Seeger" CD aren't any more enlightening. After explaining why Tim Robbins was asked to perform, he says: "This song is dedicated to those who have spoken out, in an attempt to correct wrongs long before they were recognized by society - the Ralph Naders, Upton Sinclairs, Rachel Carsons, Barry Commoners and Paul Robesons of the world." Nothing about whether real or fictional. (Not that I think it matters all that much for getting the purpose of the song, but I'd like to know, and so do others, it seems.)

07 Nov 17 - 08:34 PM (#3887415)
Subject: RE: Origins: Seeger's 'All My Children of the Sun'
From: GUEST,open mike