Pete Seeger

The Rainbow Quest

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Pete Seeger fills the first half of his 1960 studio album The Rainbow Design with three medleys, playing and singing a chorus or so of 17 different songs in 15 minutes, as if just getting down the basics of the tunes to remember them and perhaps perform them more fully later. Toward the end of this set, he gets a bit more serious and organized, beginning with an original composition "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," a philosophical ballad with the chorus (gently sung), "When will you ever learn?" What he wants his listeners to learn, it becomes apparent, is to avoid war, particularly nuclear war, as he follows with a Japanese poem to that effect before ending the medley section of the album with a poem by early 20th century labor organizer and songwriter Joe Hill. Seeger begins the album's second half with another lovely original, "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread," which expresses his desire to bind the world together. A trio of songs about the need for peace follows, all of them written by his half-sister Peggy Seeger and/or her husband, Ewan MacColl. The most affecting of these is "The Dove," which finds Seeger putting down his banjo temporarily and playing a melody on the flute. Another call to brotherhood ("To Everyone in All the World") is followed by a marching song from the Montgomery bus boycott ("We Are Moving on to Victory"), and the album concludes with the elegiac "When I'm Dead and Buried" (aka "Don't You Weep After Me"). Although the collection is something of a miscellany, it contains some excellent Seeger songs, typically mixing his love for old folk tunes with his commitment to progressive political causes such as nuclear disarmament and Civil Rights.

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