Where have all the poets gone?

Pete Seeger was a poet. His lyrics could stand alone without the music as works of art in themselves. He was a man of the people who stood up for what he believed in, relentlessly taking no prisoners. Talking Union is still relevant today, the eternal struggle for workers' rights shows no signs of being over – particularly given what we are seeing in the developing world in terms of exploitation of the poor. It is no longer in front of our eyes down the end of the street, but it’s a beamed into our TVs and laptops so that none may deny it’s still here. Little Boxes is really funny, but also has that serious side that all good comedy should contain. Michael Row The Boat Ashore is a great hymnal chant, very cleverly done in the same vein as Turn Turn Turn in that it takes a biblical quote and makes it into a song. I love the blues feel of Waist Deep In The Big Muddy – it’s the perfect lyric to put some Delta mood chords behind, Seeger has chosen very well the fit here. His delivery of the song is full of character and the speeding up at the end is a very simple but effective technique. We Shall Overcome seems very simple on first listen, but that’s part of it’s magic. By changing “will” to “shall” he changes the meaning ever so slightly to one perhaps more optimistic but crucially more poetic. Where Have All The Flowers Gone is obscenely clever in how the lyric ties together the story thread, and the message is one of the most powerful ever written in any genre. Sadly Pete Seeger passed away earlier this year. Although a great musician too, he set the bar so phenomenally high in terms of word usage and meaning in his lyrics that today I often find myself wondering, where have all the poets gone?

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