My Attempt To End War Like Arlo Guthrie

This key statue, called Canada Bereft, confirms Vimy’s sense of “never again” and not of “glory.”

This is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day in the States. If you’ve never seen the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge, it is an enormous, beautiful, monument that pays tribute to the courage of  the Canadian and allied soldiers who died there 100 years ago in and around deep trenches fighting the Imperial German Army. I visited it in 2009 and took the above photo. Then, it was about “never again.” Now we have politicians using Vimy to glorify Canada’s coming of age. Having “come of age,” Canadian troops are  part of a super-aggressive NATO in – wait for it – Latvia. Latvia, for Pete’s sake! ‘Nuff said here. I digress.

Anyway, this post is about a song I wrote in 1983, when I learned that the Russians  had so many ICBM missiles pointed at them so close that a Russian human could never respond to an American first strike in time to retaliate.

Vulnerable because of this proximity, Russia was forced to develop a computerized “launch on warning” system that would virtually, for them, take the decision out of human hands. Very scary…

The Nuclear Doomsday Clock got to 3 minutes before midnight in 1984.

So, to “save the world” like Arlo Guthrie, I wrote this country blues song called Radiatin’ A-bomb Blues and started contacting publishers. In those days we mailed them cassettes

In 1984 this light-hearted song was pitched by Mark Altman of Morning Music to Doc Watson for his Sugar Hill blues project, but it was heard too late to be considered. I performed it also live on the CBC’s Metro Morning radio program and was interviewed by its host Joe Coté, one of my all-time favourite CBC Radio people.

Then by 1991, the Cold War over, the Doomsday Clock had been moved back to 17 minutes before midnight.

I stopped singing this song, and look whats happened since!

Its now two and one half minutes to midnight, just 30 measly seconds farther than the closest it’s ever been!

So here is my 1983 song, which I sang again on Thursday. I asked the audience to sing the chorus with me and they DID. One of my listeners reminded me that Arlo said “If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing LOUD.”

So it would be lovely if, while you’re listening to my song you can sing along as loud on the chorus as you can:

I got the low down, radiation’ A-bomb blues…

Sing anything you want. Just sing, and LOUD…

Here’s Arlo’s Alice’s Restaurant

And Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzin’ Matilda is, to me, the finest anti-war song ever written. Have a listen…

 

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Lili Marlen 1915-2017 – A 2015 Repost

Photo Credit: Corley Padgett

With Remembrance Day in Canada tomorrow (and the Doomsday Clock at 2.5 seconds to midnight) I’m reposting this famous song with my 2015 words, more faithful to Hans Leip’s 1915 poem:

This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015,  is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.

The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942.  Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.

The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.

I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…

I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.

O Canada – A 2017 Re-post

O Canada, terre si belle, si grande We pledge our love from cliffs to surging sand Car nos bras saient porter l’épée, nous savons protéger la paix Notre sagesse dès milliers d’années donne à tout ce qui vit respect Pure prairie skies, tundra and tree O Canada we stand on guard for Thee O Canada […]

Note today: As the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s Confederation approaches, a re-post of the 2012 blog entry seems worthwhile. Canada’s House of Commons has approved a rather awkward-sounding tinkering with the English version to change “True patriot love in all our sons command” to “True patriot love in all of us command” but the senate hasn’t yet confirmed the change. Time we stopped tinkering… This version has been in my head and written down for almost a decade now. I think it deals with several genuine issues, including the above one about gender, but may be a little controversial. My vision is of a version such as this being sung everywhere, in verbal unison, by all people in Canada – including our First Nations.

We must remember, with respect and sensitivity, that this beautiful, shared land did not suddenly rise from the sea in the 16th century.

So here goes the original 2012 post:

O Canada, terre si belle, si grande

We pledge our love from cliffs to surging sand

Car nos bras saient porter l’épée, nous savons protéger la paix

Notre sagesse dès milliers d’années donne à tout ce qui vit respect

Pure prairie skies, tundra and tree

O Canada we stand on guard for Thee

O Canada we stand on guard for Thee.

 This single version, using both official languages, has been floating around in my mind  for a few years. For me it expresses my dream for a Canada that we can work towards building.

A Canada that believes in peace keeping and not in gratuitous wars that make the world less stable.

A Canada that respects, because of the influence of our native peoples, all forms of sentient life with whom we share the richness of our air, water and earth.

Your input is welcome.

Happy Canada Day!

Joyeuse Fête du Canada!

One Planet II

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
A photo taken in Sydney, Australia in 2008 – one of those used in my new One Planet video.

My 1983 pro-environment anti-nuke song that appeared less relevant a decade ago has gained new, urgent relevance with the relentless provocation of Russia by neocon-controlled “New American Century”  revivalists that, for some time now, have hijacked US foreign policy.

Back then the situation was so scary that I wrote two songs on the nuke issue. We seem back in perilous times.

I’ve replaced the old One Planet video with a much better video produced using new equipment and software. It is in new, HD photos taken by me with great quotations from female and male thinkers on world issues.

I call the video, “One Planet II.” It is also on the My Songs page in my header.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, author of the photo’s quote, is a brave, brilliant agricultural activist from India, known as the Seed Lady for her successful securing of seed banks of key, traditional plants against their extinction. Traditional seeds are now threatened by the patenting of seed for profit perpetrated by all-powerful corporations like Monsanto.

Laudato Si – A “Third Testament”

Laudato Si is a great title for Pope Francis’ brave, direct encyclical on our collective human responsibility for polluting and endangering our home here on earth. Francis of Assisi was the first European environmentalist. He wrote his Canticle to the Sun back in 1223 in Italian, and this 2015 encyclical by our modern Francis, eight centuries later, is named Laudato Si after the 5th line in the Canticle. “Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature” translates as:

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures

All “creatures” on this earth give simple, pure praise by their very existence and diversity. Canticle of the Sun is, in a way, a “Third Testament”, more evolved than the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament, in Genesis 1: 26, clearly expresses God’s wish that we be masters of all the other creatures. It is easily seen as flawed and human-centric when viewed in today’s precarious setting by all but the most closed minds. Here I offer an original song about interconnectedness. It is called Sapphire, after the iconic photo from space that helped us realize how beautiful and precious is Planet Earth. The New Testament tells Christians that God the Father sacrificed his son, Jesus, to redeem humanity from our sins.

***

Brother Sun and Sister Moon… What I call the “Third Testament” was perceived back in 1223 by the revolutionary genius and sensitivity of Francis of Assisi and by indigenous peoples many millennia ago. In Canticle of the Sun Francis personifies even the inanimate to show the intimacy of every thing in our universe. Here, Francis celebrates not the triumphant division of creation into masters and chattels, but the oneness and interdependence of all living and non-living things on earth. What the “Third Testament” tells us, if we are truly listening, is that we must now struggle  in extreme haste to see creation as one. We must see our “enemies,” in love and vulnerability, as partners in our urgent struggle.

We humans must, in fact, redeem ourselves.

Lili Marlen 1915-2015

Photo Credit - Corey Padgett
Photo Credit – Corley Padgett

This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015,  is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.

The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942.  Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.

The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.

I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…

I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.

Be

image

In Hindi, the words Vasudhaiva Kutumbam mean “Earth Family,” the democracy of all life.

(Quoted from Vandana Shiva’s Restoring the Earth in David Suzuki’s 1997 book, The Sacred Balance.) I thought of using Earth Family as a title for the poem, but reduced it to “Be.” For more on Vandana Shiva see the end of this post.

How to live? How to be?

I wrote lines one and three of the above haiku on a plane, after making notes on Suzuki’s book. The sky just before sunset on October 18th was spectacular looking West in the late afternoon from the Caribbean Airlines plane bringing us back from a family funeral.

By flying return to Trinidad, about 4055 km (2535 miles) one way, the two of us together “caused” about  5 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. 2.5 tonnes each. That’s enough CO2 to grow about 23, 500 tonnes of potatoes – if that helps you understand the impact that modern travel has on global warming and highlight the difficult ethical choices which, if not faced right now, will produce  much global suffering in the not too distant future. It will take some fortunate gardener working for a long while to turn that amount of gas into potatoes. These CO2 numbers are based on information from www.deliveringdata.com.

Something about turning 70 today makes me reflect more intensely on big issues.Thinking about the world I’m leaving for my grandchildren – not that I’m planning to resign anytime soon…

As promised, I have done more thinking about Décroissance. It is definitely going to be a while as I grow in awareness and commitment. But here goes:

Continue reading “Be”