We've been talking so much about really memorable music so much lately, and bands/artists that we all find overrated/underrated. In the underrated section, I named Pete Seeger. I was working on a poster this morning and listening to random mp3's, and the following song came up, and I thought Id like to share it with you all. Some of you probably have heard it: it's called 'My Name Is Lisa Kalvelage' and it was written by Pete Seeger after a pretty ferocious attack on civil rights workers on May 25th of that year. Read the lyrics...just tell me what you think...
'My name is Lisa Kalvelage, I was born in Nuremberg
And when the trials were held there nineteen years ago
It seemed to me ridiculous to hold a nation all to blame
For the horrors that the world did undergo
A short while later when I applied to be a G. I. bride
An American consular official questioned me
He refused my exit permit, said my answers did not show
I'd learned my lesson about responsibility.
Thus suddenly I was forced to start thinking on this theme
And when later I was permitted to emigrate
I must have been asked a hundred times where I was and what I did
In those years when Hitler ruled our state
I said I was a child or at most a teen-ager
But that only extended the questioning
They'd ask, where were my parents, my father, my mother
And to this I could answer not a thing.
The seed planted there at Nuremberg in 1947
Started to sprout and to grow
Gradually I understood what that verdict meant to me
When there are crimes that I can see and I can know
And now I also know what it is to be charged with mass guilt
Once in a lifetime is enough for me
No, I could not take it for a second time
And that is why I am here today.
The events of May 25th, the day of our protest,
Put a small balance weight on the other side
Hopefully, someday my contribution to peace
Will help just a bit to turn the tide
And perhaps I can tell my children six
And later on their own children
That at least in the future they need not be silent
When they are asked, "Where was your mother, when?"'
Don't that DO something to you on the inside?
Oh well, just had to share with somebody. I gotta get back to work.
There are lyrics that can be placed on empty page and can talk to you without accompanyment..strong..evocative.. emotional..these are they..summing up an individual protest against Vietnam..but it puts me in mind today of the current trial of Milosevic in the Hague..how a European community saw what was happening on its doorstep..Bosnia too..and effectively ran with the changes..conditioned to the unacceptable face of war..and the empty jigsaw pieces that always remain..that line about ‘mass guilt’ spits off the page.. Bosnians and Serbs everywhere will have to run that gauntlet also..the same as Lisa Kalvelage did back when..doubtful they will be the last..sadness personified..
Peter Seeger first came to my ears after the fallout from Dylan’s ’65 Newport appearance and the greatest Rock & Roll tour that followed from Manchester to Melbourne..a chorus of misguided boos ringin’ in their ears..lead by Seeger himself..but who can hold a grudge in the face of a man who has written lyrics that should be kept in the Smithsonian..as historical documents..then onto stage waltzed a favourite of mine..John Trudell..covering ‘Torn flag’..and now Seeger is for keeps...I'm with Jermaine here..
"...At midnight in a flaming angry town
I saw my country's flag lying torn upon the ground.
I ran in and dodged among the crowd,
And scooped it up, and scampered out to safety.
And then I took this striped old piece of cloth
And tried my best to wash the garbage off.
But I found it had been used to wrapping lies.
It smelled and stank and attracted all the flies.
While I was feverishly at my task,
I heard a husky voice that seemed to ask:
"Do you think you could change me just a bit?
Betsy Ross did her best, but she made a few mistakes.
My blue is good, the color of the sky.
The stars are good for ideals, oh, so high.
Seven stripes of red are strong to meet all danger;
But those white stripes: they, they need some changing.
I need also some stripes of deep, rich brown,
And some of tan and black, then all around
A border of God's gracious green would look good there.
Maybe you should slant the stripes, then I'd not be so square."
I woke and said, "What a ridiculous story.
Don't let anybody say I suggested tampering with Old Glory."
But tonight it's near midnight, and in another flaming town
Once again I hear my country's flag lies torn upon the ground..."
I adore these lyrics..and what they say about a symbol of freedom..not just ‘Old Glory’..and the hypocrisy and lies that blow in the wind to make it fly..Every once in a while I need a head full of protest to fill the vacuum and make me feel relevant..Seeger does it...
For those of you that care, check out this short interview that Pete did with SEVENTEEN Magazine in 1963 (!) Pete gives his 'seven pieces of advice' to pre-Beatlemania/hippie teens. He also quotes a song that he had just written (remember this is 1963): some of you might be surprised that he wrote the song mentioned.