Published on Nov 30, 2012
"To My Old Brown Earth"
from PBS American Masters series "Pete Seeger: Power of Song" in 2007.
Pete passed away January 27, 2014 at the age of 94. An inspiring humanitarian.
♫ To my old brown earth, and to my old blue sky
I will now give these last few molecules of "I."
And you who sing and you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,
Watch while you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.
And this our home, to keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I'm yours
And you are also mine. ♫
In 2007, my mom and I watched this biography of Pete Seeger on PBS. She was watching it in the front room and I was watching it in my room. It was only when I went upstairs during the program that we discovered we were both watching the program. I sat down and watched the remainder of show with her.
As the credits rolled, we chatted about Peter/Paul/Mary, music, Pete's commentary, and the recent unfair treatment and malignment peace activists. We chatted about about the importance of encouraging peace in our communities and all around the world.
"The world needs more peace," she said.
We both commented on how moving this song ("To My Old Brown Earth") was. While I admitted I had to hold in a tear, she said she felt the song was hopeful.
Funny enough, the same thing happened a few years later when the program was repeated. Again, after discovering we were both viewing it in separate rooms, I watched the remaining minutes of the program with her. I remember we chatted more about peace, peace activists, civil disobedience, community action, standing up, and speaking out.
In 2011, when she was in the hospital she told me and my bother that she wanted a certain song played at her memorial. At the time, she was becoming very disoriented and couldn't remember the title or the singer. She tried to give rambling bits of what she could remember.
"An American folk singer"
"A line about earth. Green earth or brown earth."
"You know who I am talking about."
My brother and I were clueless but named off a bunch of singers.
"Something like 'I return to the earth" and 'don't cry at my grave" and 'be strong' "
"You know the song."
"We talked about him and the song."
My brother is a big music fan so, at the time, we assumed she was referring to him when she said, "we talked about him and the song." But now I believe she was referring to me.
I figured that those were enough clues about the song she had in mind and I would just try on google and said we can find it. Unfortunately, this was not the case. No matter the combination of phrases I used, I was not able to find a reasonable song.
Pete's commentary during the song:
"Once upon a time, wasn't singing a part of everyday life, as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion? Our distant ancestors, wherever they were in the world, sang while pounding grain and paddling canoes, or walking long journeys.
Can we begin to make our lives, once more, all about peace? Finding the right song and singing it over and over is a great way to start.
And when one person taps out a beat while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a new harmony they never new existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world."
Weeks after her memorial, I finally figured out that she was referring to "To My Old Brown Earth" when, in her room, I found the song lyrics for "To My Old Brown Earth" printed out on a sheet of paper.
Little did I know the impact this television would have. I am grateful that my mother and I both had interest in this biography about Pete Seeger and were able to share the time together. I glad I found "the right song" to sing "over and over" when ever I need reminding "there is hope."