I haven’t performed this in public for many years (well, up to a couple of days ago when I sang it at the Bucks Head in Shrewsbury), but it might be my favourite Pete Seeger performance of all time. He didn’t, in fact, write the song, but in a very real sense he did create it.
Jeanette Turner sent him a loose English translation of a poem by by the Turkish writer Nazim Hikmet Ran, asking him to put a tune to it. In fact, the tune he finally put to it was originally composed by Jim Waters in 1954 for the Child ballad ‘The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry’ (recorded by Joan Baez, the Byrds et al.)
I used to play it on electric guitar, but I don’t think I’d do it that way now. I did think of trying to add a little Japanese colour to it with some suitable keyboard effects and trying to counterfeit a shansin effect with a banjo, but for now I just settled for a very restrained second guitar part.
You can find the words here.
I don’t really have heroes, but if I did have, Pete Seeger, who died just a few days ago, would probably be one of them. At any rate, I’m sorry I never had the chance to meet him.
Small Blue-Green World