Pete Seeger & Larry Long 1980

Pete Seeger was a giant of a man, who walked humbly on this earth.  He changed the course of history by changing the lives of everyone he met.  He inspired us all to be a little less selfish and more courageous in our giving.  He carried the memories of the people in the songs he wrote, the songs he sang, the stories he told, and the decisions he made daily to stand for justice from wherever he stood.   

Pete Seeger co-wrote We Shall Overcome during the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign in 1964.   He was a World War II veteran who was a champion of the labor and anti-Vietnam War movement, as well.

Pete Seeger was truly a remarkable man.  He cared deeply for his neighbors, and we cared for him, because the entire world was his neighborhood.   His kitchen table was filled with letters that arrived daily from those who loved him.  He would separate those letters in piles and meticulously go through each one of them with hand written responses in the margins or on postcards with a sketch of a banjo by his name, Pete.

I met Pete Seeger through the former Farmer-Labor Governor of Minnesota, Elmer Benson.   After singing songs in support of the family farmer in the American Agriculture Movement’s strike office in Appleton, Minnesota, Governor Benson said, “You remind me of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.   Pete and Woody use to travel through Minnesota and sing for the lumberjacks and miners who were on strike.”

One month later, after arriving in Washington DC on a hundred mile long tractorcade for parity, I get a call from Pete Seeger through Governor Benson’s prompting, who shared stories with me about singing for striking dairy farmers at our nation’s capitol and gave me encouragement to keep singing for the people.

When they honored Governor Elmer Benson at the Prom Center in St. Paul in the late 70’s Pete brought me up on stage to sing with him.

I loved him as a father.  I loved him as a friend.   I would call him up on the phone at odd hours from the road. Sometimes we would talk for hours. Other times for only a few minutes, but no matter how long we talked, I always felt a whole lot better after we did. Conversations with Pete had no end, they just kept flowing into laughter and inspiration to keep on trying to make this world a little bit better than what it was when it was handed down to us.

I was asked to perform at Madison Square Garden with Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Ramblin Jack Elliot, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, and others for his 90th Birthday celebration, which raised funds for the Clearwater Project Pete founded to help save the Hudson River. The moment most remembered was when Pete Seeger sang Amazing Grace and all 20,000 people stood up singing.

Pete Seeger gave us all a voice and the encouragement to keep on singing and making a

difference.
As Pete told me years ago,  “Try and do a good job with the people you know near you. It’s nice to travel. But – and I suppose while you’re young it’s the best time to travel. You can learn by traveling. The world can be your University, as Maxim Gorky once said.  But in the long run, find this part of the world that you really like that you can stick to.  It might be the same town you were raised in, but it might be another place. It might be a valley, it might be a desert, it might be a swamp, but find some area that you really like enough, so you’re going to stick there the rest of your life.”

Pete then shared, “Everywhere I go I tell this: When I meet somebody who says there’s really no hope – – you know, things are going to get from worse to worse, and this is the last century of the human race, I tell them: ‘Did you expect to see our great Watergate president leave office the way he did?’ They say, ‘No, I guess I didn’t. I say, ‘Did you expect the Pentagon to have to leave Vietnam the way it did?’ They say, ‘No, I didn’t.’ I say, ‘Did you expect to see the Berlin Wall come down so peacefully, the way it did?’ They say, ‘No, I really didn’t expect that.’ Then I say, ‘Did you expect to see Mandela head of South Africa?’ They say, ‘Oh no, no I really didn’t expect that, I thought he’d rot in jail forever, the rest of his life.’ ‘Well,’ I say, ‘If you couldn’t predict those things, don’t be confident that you can predict there’s no hope.”

It’s now our turn to carry that torch of justice, equity, and freedom out into the world. We’ve got work to do.  There’s a job to be done.  The future of our children depends upon it!

For Pete’s Sake

For Pete’s sake keep those rivers clean
The Hudson, Amazon, Volga, Nile, Yangtze, Ganges, Mississippi

(Chorus)
There ain’t no body in the whole wide world like Pete (2x)
There ain’t nobody in the whole wide world
Like each and every boy and girl
There ain’t nobody in the whole wide world like Pete

For Pete’s sake find a place you love to be
Stick with it, care for it
The whole world depends on it
All it takes is one good song
To help the world sing-a-long
(Chorus)

Sail away, sail away, sail on Clearwater
Sail away, sail away, sail on Clearwater

Words & music by Larry Long

Copyright Larry Long 2014 / BMI

 

American Roots Revue is returning to the Dakota this January for two shows on January 18. If you missed their last shows in November, now is the perfect opportunity to experience this amazing group of musicians all on stage at the same time. From the press release:

Back by popular demand after two sold-out shows at the Dakota in November, gospel great Robert Robinson; the unstoppably creative dynamo J.D. Steele; R&B powerhouse Tonia Hughes and gifted songwriter Larry Long will return with a band of musicians second to none on Saturday, January 18th. Together for an explosive new show at the Dakota, they will warm up your January with their powerful and heart-warming performances from the vibrant traditions of gospel, jazz, rhythm & blues, folk and rock. For this Martin Luther King weekend, join them in celebrating the ties that bind us together through a shared love of music rooted in the American experience. 

We hope to see you there! And to keep up with all the latest updates on the show, be sure to visit Larry on Facebook.

American Roots Revue is giving away two free tickets for Friday’s 9pm show at the Dakota. All you need to do is head on over to the American Roots Revue Facebook page, hit that nifty Like button, and enter. We’ll pick the winner at noon on Thursday, so get while the gettin’ good!

I want free tickets >

Larry performed the song “Redskins” today on KFAI’s Truth to Tell radio program (kfai.org/truthtotell). The song, which decries the use of the name “Redskins” by the Washington Redskins, was written for the  upcoming Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington football game at the Metrodome Nov. 7

NOVEMBER 7th Schedule:

4:30 PM at the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center 1113 E. Franklin Ave. Minneapolis, 55404 for cultural presentations before the March.

5:30 PM March to the Metrodome: We will be leaving from the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center and marching West on Franklin Ave to Chicago Ave to the Metrodome.

6 PM Rally at the Metrodome: There will be speakers and cultural presentations from the Four Directions of Mother Earth.

PRESENTATIONS AND SPEAKERS INCLUDE:  Midnight Express, Billy Mills (Makata Taka Hela) 10,000 Meter Olympic Gold Medalist, Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue: Aztec and Nahuati Dance and Culture, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Mitch Walking Elk, Larry Long, and Clyde Bellecourt.

About Redskins recording:

Larry Long & Crow Bellecourt
Words & music by Larry Long
Copyright Larry Long Publishing 2013/BMI

Honor Song by Crow Bellecourt
Copyright Crow Bellecourt 2013/BMI

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Creation Audio, Studio A, Minneapolis MN
Engineer: Steven Wiese
Assistant: Ali Branjord

You can listen to the song below:

SONY DSCOn Tuesday, July 9th, the world lost a beloved cornerstone of the traditional music world: Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, aged 91. Toshi was the wife of Pete Seeger or–perhaps more fittingly–Pete Seeger was the husband of Toshi.  She passed away just a few days shy of their 70th Wedding Anniversary.

As Mark Moss (SingOut!) wrote in his tribute, “[Toshi] was a mother, an organizer, an activist and filmmaker … and an essential part of all of her husband’s work.” (singout.org/toshi-seeger-passes)

Toshi was a dear friend to many, including me. And she was tough as nails. She had to be.

Pete was on the road performing and doing benefits for countless organizations through most of their married life, and Toshi kept the home fires burning in their modest log cabin home perched above the Hudson River.

Years ago Pete tacked up a cartoon on one of those cabin walls. It showed a very exhausted housewife holding two children in one arm, washing the dishes with the other, wearing a dirty apron, phone pressed to one ear, saying, “No, my husband’s not at home right now. He’s off saving the world.”

Pete crossed out the word “he’s” and scribbled his own name above it.

Toshi worked tirelessly behind the scenes throughout Pete’s public life.  Pete was the sails. Toshi was the rudder that kept them both afloat.  She handled most of the details of their shared life and helped keep Pete humble.

As Pete got older, Toshi made sure that someone was always keeping a close eye on him when he was out on the road.  On one occasion I was elected to be that person.  When she learned that Pete and I would be performing at the same conference in California, she asked me to pick him up at the airport, stay at the same place, and drive Pete wherever he needed to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn later years, as this amazingly strong and independent woman needed twenty-four hour care, it was Pete and their daughter Tinya watching over Toshi.

I learned about Toshi’s passing from a neighbor walking her dog by our home yesterday. She asked if I had heard about Toshi Seeger passing away. I hadn’t.

My neighbor heard about her death through what my First Nation friends call the “moccasin express.” A sister had died, and the people knew it.   Which is how Toshi lived her life: Close to the ground and close to the people. Just how it should be.

There will never be another Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, but her life and legacy will no doubt inspire countless others to walk their talk in her footsteps.

Minnesota Nonprofit AwardsCommunity Celebration of Place has been nominated for a 2013 Nonprofit Mission Award for our work in communities and schools. From their website:

Through its Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song™ program, Community Celebration of Place works to eliminate prejudice and racism in society by demonstrating a commitment to pluralism and [inclusivity], and developing unique and thought-provoking strategies to combat racism.

To learn more, visit their website.

Richie Havens, Larry Long and Claire ChamberlinRichie Havens was a warm and kind person. He was a strong man, with radiant ebony skin and full beard, a ring on every finger, and often wearing a long, blousy African shirt, draped with necklaces he’d collected from around the world. The man commanded your attention the moment he walked on stage. And he kept it—seated on a stool and playing his acoustic opened string tuned guitar with a large triangular pick he rhythmically strummed like he was playing on an ancestral drum. It was hypnotic.

Richie owned every song he ever played. Be it George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, or his own redemptive version of Freedom—immortalized by his performance at Woodstock.

He walked with gentle courage and had a belly laugh that bubbled up out of his very being with an infectious smile that circled the world. I shared the stage with Richie on several occasions through the years. In Central Park at Ben & Jerry’s Folk Festival. On the dry grazing Diné lands of Arizona to support an end to the mining of ancestral land (where, in appreciation, the Hopi people invited Richie into a ceremonial gathering on top of a sacred mesa). The last time I shared a stage with Richie was at Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, where he once again mesmerized thousands with his soulful gift of musical acoustic wonder.

Richie Havens was a star in the purest sense of the word. His light shone brightly. Not upon himself, but upon the love we all share within our hearts. He will be deeply missed.
By Larry Long
April 23, 2013

Join Larry Long and Community Celebration of Place on May 30, 2013, from 9am to 1pm, for the Youth & Elders’ Circle 2013 to celebrate the elders honored by Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song during the 2012-2013 school year as well as all the elders honored through the EWCS program.

The event will feature Jazz Legends Irv Williams and Cliff Brunzell with brothers Billy & Paul Peterson, Mini-Documentary “Be Kind To All That Live” in honor of Helen Tsuchiya, release of two story song books & three sound recordings from Elizabeth Hall International and Barton Elementary students, performance of “Forgiveness” and “Be The Change”, Youth & Elders from throughout the metro area, Round Table Discussions led by Dare 2 Be Real Student Leaders and free Soul Food lunch with vegetarian option.

To RSVP

Eventbrite - Youth and Elders' Circle 2013

When

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Program from 9am – 1pm (lunch provided)

Where

North Community YMCA Youth & Teen Enrichment Center
1711 West Broadway Avenue, Mpls.
Matt Kjorstad: 612-302-7272

On February 12, 2013, EWCS honored Anishinabe Ojibwe elder Pat Bellanger at the Sanford Middle School celebration. Bellanger is a founding member of the American Indian Movement and shared her story with students, who wrote the song Awanakwe to honor Bellanger. You can read more about Pat Bellanger in the article posted on The Circle this month. Watch the video of the performance on YouTube.

From the History Theatre’s website:

With Labor organizations and Unions under attack on the political battlefield, now is the perfect time to reflect on the life of one of Minnesota’s most important labor activists and civil rights leaders! Nellie had played an important part in Hubert H. Humphrey’s history, on both the local level and the national stage, and made a tangible difference in the lives of those she worked with and all of the people of Minnesota.

For more information:

Passport to History events:
http://www.historytheatre.com/event

On Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/events/152916948194808/?notif_t=plan_edited

MLK day Inaugural Celebrating

The Martin Luther King Day Celebration will celebrate Inaugural of the President , the election of the 113 new members to Congress, the new members to Senate and the House of Representatives, and the defeat of the two state amendments.

Will include Food, cash bar. Entertainment, Dancing, and highlights of the Inauguration. There will even be cut-outs of the President and Vice-President for pictures

Ticket Prices:
Pre-Sale  $20
At the Door $25
College Students  w/student ID $10 (At the Door)
Groups of 10 or more $15/ticket (Pre-Sale Only)
No Charge for children 0 – High School Seniors accompanied by parent or guardian

On November 15, 2012, the Okemah city council voted to make the song Okemah Waltz the official city song. Speaking before the council voted, Larry McKinney, who worked with Larry back in 1988, spoke about his first conversations with Larry, who was looking to come to Okemah and teach the children about Woody Guthrie.

Initially hesitant, he eventually agreed, and Larry spent three years in Okemah working with the schools and children. Larry’s album It Takes A Lot of People (Tribute to Woody Guthrie), came out of that work as did the new official Okemah song, Okemah Waltz.

Read the article from the Okemah Leader here.

Download Okemah Waltz notation (PDF)

Larry joined Dale Connelly in the KFAI studio this Wednesday to talk about his song, Water In the Rain, which honors the 38 Dakota men who were hanged on December 26, 1862, following the US-Dakota War of 1862. To listen to the interview and hear Larry singing Water In the Rain, you can visit the KFAI website. Fresh Air will be replaying the interview on December 26, between 7:00 – 9:00 am, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the hanging.

“Since I was young, at an early age, no one seemed to care what I had to say. If they only knew what we’ve been through, they would say, oh my god, what can I do?”

The above excerpt is from “Freedom,” a song written and recorded by two young girls imprisoned in a children’s detention center, with the help of Larry Long.

The Southern Poverty Law Center works to ensure that our children’s rights advocacy is informed and shaped in collaboration with the youth for whom we work. Despite the fact that the children we work with are frequently neglected by their schools or abused by juvenile justice systems, these youths possess an incredible resiliency and have profound insights about the systems that impact their lives.

During the Spring of 2010, the SPLC worked in collaboration with youth from the Gulf Coast Region and professional musicians to use music to give a voice to these children’s realities, hopes and dreams. Through the SPLC Youth Voices Music Project, over a few short days, these children wrote, sang and recorded seven original songs. The children demonstrate remarkable gifts and talents, as well as profound depth and thoughtfulness about life as a child in the Deep South in their music and lyrics.

Several of the children participated from behind the walls of a youth detention center in Mississippi. We were only able to work with them by passing through secured, metal doors to enter their world of imprisonment. As in most places, in Mississippi over 70 percent of the youth behind bars are accused of non-violent offenses like shoplifting, disorderly conduct or school-related offenses. At times, children as young as ten years old are locked up for a school-yard fight or for misbehaving at home.

Despite the harsh circumstances in which they are forced to exist, several children in this Mississippi detention center turned pain into beauty and sorrow into art by translating their experiences of being incarcerated into powerful songs. The sensitivity, brilliance and youthfulness of these children, as demonstrated by their art, directly challenges the grotesque practice of locking children in cages. While listening to their music, we are forced to wonder why we allow children to live in these conditions. What act could a child commit that would make him or her worthy of growing up in a cage? Could a cage ever help a child thrive and develop into a responsible adult?

This paradox is made even more obvious when confronted with the children’s hopes, dreams and acute awareness about the trajectory of their lives and possibility of a lifetime spent in prison…. As one incarcerated child stated, “We know more than what we put on the outside.  You got [kids in prison for the rest of their lives] that could have been presidents. That’s one thing I lay in my bed and worry ’bout, man.  Am I going to be next….Cause I know I’m smarter than what I put on the outside….Sometimes there ain’t no hope”.

Then, they say something that breaks your heart and forces you to remember that they are children. Just children. Living in cages. One child described his cellmates:  “Some of the boys in here, they just want to hear their family say they love ’em.  My boy in here, he was telling me… all…all I want is to hear my mama say “I love you.”

What would help these children realize their tremendous potential? How do we prevent more children from ending up behind bars? One of the major challenges facing children in the Deep South is the education system. Too many schools have become hostile environments for children instead of a refuge in which to learn.

Public school students are pushed out of school for minor misbehaviors at dramatic rates. Already, many children live in distressed communities, in which poverty and violence are prevalent. Schools could provide a safe place for children to learn and receive guidance and support instead of punishing them. When a child is repeatedly discouraged or reprimanded by educators, or suspended or expelled from school, they are more likely to drop out of school and not earn a high-school diploma. This is a tragedy of epic proportions that our nation can no longer afford to ignore.
In New Orleans, the SPLC Youth Voices Music Project worked with approximately 20 public school children, ranging from grades 5-12. These youth came together to talk about their city, their schools, their community and their future.

We began with an inter-generational dialogue circle, in which several community leaders and life-long New Orleans residents spoke of growing up in New Orleans, in segregated schools, when times were different…or so we thought.  As the students asked questions and shared their experiences, we began to notice parallels between current public school conditions and those of two generations ago.  In fact, certain things have become worse, such as the rate at which children are pushed out of school through the use of school suspensions and expulsions.

People both young and old reflected on the deterioration of public schools, the disintegration of community, and the need for people to unite to support and care for each other. People spoke of the continued impact of Hurricane Katrina, how it continues to cripple entire communities, including individuals who are unable to return or who return to a drastically changed city. They spoke of the international promise of support to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, in contrast to the still broken and vacant houses and dilapidated school buildings that were flooded by the storm. They spoke of the violence plaguing children in the New Orleans schools and streets, how there are no safe havens anymore, and how children are too often brutalized by police officers, school security guards and other children.

Over two days we created three original songs, which included writing lyrics, developing melodies and recording live performances. One of the songs collaboratively written by the children, “Change These Ways,” declares that it is “time to build up unity, time to rebuild our community.” One 15-year-old boy arrived on the second evening to share a beautiful, searing melody that he had written that morning, titled “Dreams.” The chorus of another song, “This is Life,” cries out: “This is life, let me tell you how it is, grown folks problems in the thoughts of little kids.”

These new songs written by children through the SPLC’s Youth Voices Music Project have yet to stand the measure of time. Most assuredly, however, they are anchored in the same proud tradition of earlier songs of Justice and Freedom. The melodies, rhymes, and words all move from the same heartbeat. Now it’s time for these songs to be sung – so the voices of the children can be heard. For, as we do unto the least, we do unto ourselves.

Youth Voices Project participants:  Children imprisoned in a Mississippi youth detention center, New Orleans Youth Artists Alexis Burnside, Teal Mitchell, Kendrick Crain, Alfred Banks, Denise Pittman, Re’Jeanne Badreaux, Ranjae Cornin, Gerelyn Mitchell, John Baumbach, Cory Burd, Chrishawn DeBose, Knowledge is Born, Isaac Bourgeois, Cassandra Tran, Daylin “Tizz” Bolding, Ladonna Bryer, Jerron Fournett, Jeremy Mitchell, Venecia Mitchell.

New Orleans Community Leaders: DJ Markey, Ted Quant, Yvette Thierry

Consulting Musicians: Skipp Coon (epk.tibbitmusic.com/tibbit_epk.pdf), Chuck “Lyrikill” Jones (www.thesoundclash.com), Larry Long (www.larrylong.org), Truth Universal (www.truthuniversal.com),

To hear these songs, please visit: www.splcenter.org/voices