Sunday 25 February 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: A marching song for the people

Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger

Ulick O'Connor

It is 70 years ago this year since Pete Seeger launched his adaptation of 'We Shall Overcome'. Sensation! It is probably the best-known song for those who seek to preserve democracy and free speech. Former President Barack Obama has said that Seeger was "America's tuning fork who had demonstrated the power of song to bring about social change".

In the 1960s when the right wing tried to nail Seeger for his radical political beliefs, he wrote a song condemning Stalin which demonstrated that his socialism did not accept the extreme policies of the Soviet Union.

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe.

He ruled with an iron hand.

He put an end to the dreams

Of so many in every land.

I met Seeger in America in the 1960s through the Clancy Brothers who were almost as famous there as he was, and who preached the same gospel. He was keenly aware of the Irish fight for freedom and could quote from James Connolly at will.

'We Shall Overcome' has become the marching song of thousands of people in search of truth. It was the leading song of the recent Women's Marches which took place all over the world last month.

Here are some verses from this wonderful folk song which is surely among the finest there is.

from WE SHALL OVERCOME

We shall overcome

We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day

We'll walk hand in hand

We'll walk hand in hand

We'll walk hand in hand some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day

Pete Seeger 1919-2014

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