Paul Winter dropped a reminisce about Pete Seeger in my e-mail Inbox the other day. I’d like to share it with you.
Our long-time friend and mentor, Pete Seeger, passed away on Monday. I was privileged to meet Pete at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966, and he then gave me encouragement as I was creating a new ensemble that became the Paul Winter Consort.
In the early 90s, sensing that Pete’s recordings were not being heard by younger generations, I suggested to him that he record an album of his Earth songs. He said, “My voice is shot, but if we can have a chorus to carry the melodies, I could sing along.” My Living Music colleagues and I produced the album Pete in 1996. It won a Grammy, Pete’s first. The final song, “To My Old Brown Earth” (lyrics below), is one Pete had written for a friend’s funeral. It’s the most moving “goodbye song” I’ve ever heard.
We’d like to offer it as a free download for anyone who would like to hear it. And please feel free to pass it along to your friends.
For living music,
TO MY OLD BROWN EARTH
To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules
And you who sing
And you who stand nearby
I do charge you not to cry
Guard well our human chain
Watch well you keep it strong
As long as sun will shine
And this our home
Keep pure and sweet and green
For now I’m yours
And you are also
— Words and music by Pete Seeger, 1958
About the song, Pete wrote: “In 1958 I sang at the funeral of John McManus, co-editor of the radical newsweekly, The Guardian, and regretted that I had no song worthy of the occasion. So this got written.”