We thought we had to purchase a book for my daughter’s music class this semester, but it was actually a book for the older kids’ group. Still, I am glad we bought it; not only will we possibly use it in a future class, we can also use it while we practice piano music. It will give my daughter a good break from the constant “Mary Had a Little Lamb” she’s been playing.
The book is called Get America Singing…Again! A Project of the Music Educators National Conference. I love that its forward is written by Pete Seeger, a man who appreciates the connection between music and people and justice more than many others do. We tend to see music as this money making machine, something that we use for working out or relaxing to. But the history of music in this country runs so much deeper.
Music was the way that slaves were able to connect with one another and escape to the north; remember “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning?” I get goosebumps just thinking about these songs. They are our history, yet we are taught so few songs like these that actually made a difference in our nation.
From these spirituals to Woodie Guthrie’s music to the gospel songs sang by Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow activists, music has played a huge role in connecting people in their cause and motivating us to move forward. The sixties were filled with revolutionary songs that fueled the anti-war feeling, and even in this war in Iraq and Afghanistan activists have turned toward vocals of people—from folk singer Amy Martin to hard alternative band System of a Down—for inspiration and action.
So songs in this book, like “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Blue Skies,” are welcome in my home for sure. Even gospels like “Amazing Grace” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” religiously natured as they are, still make me smile, knowing their great history and use in achieving peace. My daughter would have her mind enriched by learning these and many other Americana tunes.
In Seeger’s forward, he also talks about how we used to sing as communities and how that’s been lost in our country. Could you imagine what it would be like if we still sung together—the kind of unity we could bring about? No wonder you never hear government officials singing! I would love to have that kind of community activity back within our towns and cities, and I know it would make our lives that much more connected and that much sweeter.