Friday, July 30, 2010

BP Protest song: God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You by Pete Seeger

“The oil spill makes me wish for the first time that Superman actually existed. It would take him approximately 10 minutes to plug it up and another 30 minutes to clean it up the spill . . . sigh . . .”
-my facebook status during the second week of the oil spill in the Gulf.

One of the most disheartening sites in recent memory was flying into Panama Beach, Florida and seeing oil floating on the top of the water. At first, there was a sense of disbelief and then a sinking feeling of horror.  Diana’s cousin was getting married down there.  In all the excitement, I almost forgot about the whole oil spill until walking on the beach and seeing tar balls collecting on the sand.

It’s hard for me to know how to feel about all of this. Being angry at BP, politicians and whoever else we can blame this catastrophe on really doesn’t get us anywhere. Where do we look for guidance? Yesterday I found some answers in a man who has acted as the consciences of America for generations, Pete Seeger.

Pete Seeger is 91 years old and one of the most influential American musicians.  Without him there would we wouldn’t have Bob Dylan, Springsteen, the conscience of rock music and the spirit of hip-hop. Continuing the tradition of Woodie Guthrie, Seeger is a cultural treasure carrying on  some of our most important songs like “We Shall Overcome” . . .

 . . . and composing some of the most powerful songs like “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

What does this old man have to tell us about the oil spill? Simply that we can get through this if we join together.

There’s some political shading in this song,  “drill baby drill turns to spill baby spill."  But it's more humorous then critical and “it’s time to turn things around trickle up, not trickle down,” isn’t so much political but a call to all of us to change our way of thinking.

Like “We Shall Overcome” this is a song for the people, and it warms my heart how Seeger teaches the song to the audience as he performs.  Sometimes we forget that protest music isn’t so much about anger but calling people to change and there’s no better way than to encourage people to change through optimism: “Don’t give up, don’t give in, working together we all can win.”

The chorus ends with the statement, “hoping we’ll all pull through” and if after 91 years, Seeger is still believes in all of us, than who am I to become disheartened?

My favorite part of this song is the last verse: “when we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope.” It’s so true. Sharing music, songs and life with young people rejuvenates you like nothing else and maybe that’s why Seeger is still active in his 90s. 

I don't know if we're all to blame for this disaster but as Seeger suggest we all have a role in the solution.  When Seeger opens the songs singing "God's counting on me, God's counting on you,"  he's not talking so much about God but about us counting on each other.   If we come together and face our problems not with anger but with hope we will pull through.

Thanks for the hope Pete.

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