On his latest studio album, Tomorrow’s Children, the indomitable Pete Seeger continues his life’s work of communication and inspiration to action. This CD is like a joyful town picnic featuring Pete as a (global) village elder, assembling his neighbors to appreciate their past and present, to celebrate their triumphs against environmental threats, to swap old and new stories, to appreciate the natural glories surrounding them and to make sure that the following generations “carry it on” – the unifying spirit and power of music, the “folk process” of adapting or writing songs to respond to current situations.
The 19 newly recorded songs on Tomorrow’s Children testify to Seeger’s long-held credo, “Think globally, act locally.” Once considered a controversial outsider by some of the residents of his adopted hometown of Beacon, NY, the international icon of sociopolitical activism has since involved himself in local activities and issues and became accepted as a neighbor. His concern about the heavily polluted Hudson River that runs alongside Beacon inspired the construction of the 107- foot Sloop Clearwater, “America’s Environmental Flagship,” which sails the Hudson spreading environmental education and awareness.
When Beacon fourth-grade teacher Tery Udell invited Clearwater educator and singer Dan Einbender to teach her students about the Hudson, class sessions became songfests, and where there are songs, there’s Pete. He became a regular visitor to the kids’ classroom in 2007.
The classroom gatherings and performances inevitably led to a series of recordings by Pete, Dan, musician and CD co-producer (with Dan) David Bernz, the children (known as “The Rivertown Kids”), as well as adult musicians, high schoolers and even 14 grammar school percussion students. The result of such a disparate musical cast is a delight to the ears as presented on Tomorrow’s Children. Pete is on every track of the CD, singing, storytelling, playing banjo and 12-string guitar, but he shares the studio spotlight with all of his guests. Their voices, instruments and the songs they have adopted or adapted are woven into a colorful quilt depicting our nation’s history (“Take It from Dr. King,” the tribute to Pete’s fellow civil rights warrior performed on the “Late Night with David Letterman” show; “I See Freedom,” the true story of a runaway slave who settled in Beacon); the possibilities of an ecologically clean world (the newly co-written Seeger song “Solartopia” featuring guest vocalist Dar Williams), and the natural beauty worth preserving (“Down by the River,” “The River that Flows Both Ways,” and others). Perhaps most importantly, Tomorrow’s Children contains songs of empowerment and cooperation adapted or written by the kids themselves such as “We Sing Out” (“…so our voices can be heard,” with a melody borrowed from Tom Paxton), an updated version of the old gospel and union song, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and a set of new verses to Seeger’s Biblically-inspired standard, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” added for the children by Pete’s wife of more than 60 years, Toshi.
No matter who’s singing the songs, the spirit of Tomorrow’s Children is pure Pete. The reflective title track extols “the dream of changing the world into something new . . . Our greatest joy was opening the way for you.” And as Pete sings in “It’s a Long Haul,” “It’s a job for the many/Not just for the few . . .haulin’ together and makin’ up a rhyme.” That sounds like Paradise to Pete – a common goal approached with unity of purpose and effort, and sneaking in some fun, too. You needn’t be one of tomorrow’s children to take these reminders to heart.
1 Quite Early Morning (with spoken introduction)
2. We Sing Out
3. There’ll Come a Day
5.Down by the River
7. Mastinchele Wachipi Olewan (The Rabbit Song)
8. The River that Flows Both Ways
9. I See Freedom
10.Take It from Dr. King
11. De Colores
12. It Really Isn’t Garbage
13.English is Cuh-ray-zee
14. River Song (Back and Forth the Hudson Flows)
15.It’s a Long Haul
16. We Shall Not Be Moved
17. Turn, Turn, Turn
18. Tomorrow’s Children
19. Quite Early Morning