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1001 Stories Collection

Where Have All The Flowers Gone

1001 wherehavealltheflowersgone reneefisher
Added on 03rd September 2020

Composer and Lyricist Pete Seeger
First released 1961

A folk song from the 1960s with a powerful anti-war message.

Story

A circular song with a slow and lilting refrain which shows the futility of war – girls pick flowers, they find partners, the men go to war and come back to graveyards which get covered in flowers.

Why we chose it

A powerful anti-war song with a universal age-old message about what war means for the generation caught up in it. A song that was part of the folk music revival of the 1960s, which was popular then and has since been recorded by many artists from different music traditions.

Where it came from

Pete Seeger was a singer and civil rights campaigner. Where Have All The Flowers Gone is a powerful anti-war song. When reading the novel And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov, Seeger came across lines sung by a group of Cossack soldiers going back to the war about flowers being picked by girls who marry the men who join the army. He put them together with the refrain ‘long time passing’ and added the question ‘When will we ever learn?’ to form the first three verses of the song. Joe Hickerson heard the song in this early form and sang it with the kids at the kids camp where he worked. He added the final two verses and Seeger has always credited him with them.

Where it went next

The song has been sung and recorded by many different artists from different musical traditions, including Peter Paul and Mary, Kingston Trio, Roy Orbison, Vera Lynn, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton and Olivia Newton John. It has been recorded in many different languages - Marlene Dietrich sang it in English, French and German.

Peter Seeger’s recording was inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973, an award for recordings that are over 25 years old and have historical significance. During the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 it was recorded by over 50 singers, musicians and their families, from their homes to raise money for the charity Help Musicians.

Associated stories

Seeger was part of the folk music revival of the 1960s He saw himself as part of a long folk music tradition but saw also the power of folk songs to call for social change. He wrote a number of protest songs and revived and popularised songs like We Shall Overcome. His other best known original song is If I had a Hammer.

Added on 03rd September 2020

Composer and Lyricist Pete Seeger
First released 1961