pete seeger
Pete Seeger at 91, still on the front lines of activism: ‘Let’s sing with children often…’

Which Side Are You On?
Pete Seeger and The Rivertown Kids Sing of A Better World For All

pete seeger, tomorrow's childrenTOMORROW’S CHILDREN
Pete Seeger with the Rivertown Kids and Friends
Appleseed Recordings

An album of songs featuring Pete Seeger, some younger friends, and some really younger friends—fourth graders from a school in Pete’s home bases of Beacon, NY—promoting the idea of responsible stewardship of the environment and energy-efficient solutions to the energy crisis: this is the climate change deniers’ worst nightmare in the form not of a scholarly Al Gore treatise but a multi-generational, common sense appeal to take care of the world around us, because its health is intrinsic to our own. The thoroughly delightful Tomorrow’s Children surfaces at the moment two lunatic right wing Congressional candidates in New York are spewing the most antediluvian ideas about global warming while other entrenched Republican wingnuts are on an offensive, hurling baseless, irresponsible charges about climate science being a “criminal conspiracy” (“Global Warming Deniers and Their Proven Strategy of Doubt,” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway at Yale Environment 360).

Tomorrow’s Children is no mere collection of venerable and venerated folk songs from long ago. Most of its 19 tunes are newly written for this collection, penned (and performed in part) by educators and artists affiliated with Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization. When an older tune shows up, it’s on the order of a simple, moving rendition of a Seeger classic, “Turn Turn Turn”—but with new verses “made up for kids,” as Pete notes in his spoken introduction to the number, which the kids and adults then join voices in splendid unison, backed by Pete’s tuneful banjo picking with support from someone giving an acoustic guitar a forceful strumming. This probably amounts to “indoctrination” in Rush Limbaugh’s world, but on Tomorrow’s Children the kids’ bright, cheery voices carry a message of hope, of a steadfast belief in the urgency of clean energy alternatives (in the capsule history lesson about our bumbling, stumbling attempts to power up through the years, “Solartopia,” with guest vocalist Dar Williams sitting in); the necessity for sensible recycling as explained in Clearwater educator and musician Dan Einbender’s easygoing folk blues, “It Really Isn’t Garbage”; the embrace of a world of many hues in “De Colores,” sung in Spanish over a gently lilting rhythm provided by mandolin, 12-string guitar and brush drums; and the inherent humanity of Dr. Martin Luther King’s espousal of inter-racial non-violence detailed in a song that references many of the most painful moments of the Civil Rights Movement, “Take It From Dr. King,” which has the greater impact of illustrating the fruit borne of the courage of those who have put themselves in harm’s way throughout history in order to build a more just society. Sometimes, all that’s needed to make a dramatic point is Pete’s voice and conscience, as is the case on “I See Freedom,” a quiet, shuffling, country- and Caribbean-inflected story-song about James F. Brown, a runaway slave who settled as a free man in Beacon, NY, became one of the first black men with the right to vote and, with a group of other black men, purchased land for a burial ground “where black men and women could be buried with pride.” In Pete’s narration, and in the words of the song written by Jeff Haynes, over a musical backdrop of plaintive harmonica, softly strummed guitar and the evocative pings of a steel drum, is the story of a legacy handed down through the ages, on to Dr. King and ultimately to Barack Obama. It’s lofty, idealistic rhetoric—here and, for that matter, elsewhere on this recording—but laudable, too, in its aspirations for a day when the world will be whole, spiritually and ecologically.

Pete Seeger, ‘Take It From Dr. King,’ performed on the Letterman show, 2008, and now included on Tomorrow’s Children, with Pete backed by the Rivertown Kids.

And that’s another point. Anyone who’s seen Pete Seeger perform knows “harmony” to be one of his favorite words—as in, “Sing it in harmony!” Or “A little harmony now!” He even talks harmony at one point on Tomorrow’s Children. But Pete’s exhortations in that regard are not merely about singing; in Pete’s world, harmony is about various seemingly unconnected entities coming together and being productive as one—voices from America, from the Middle East, from South America, belonging to folks from the synagogue, the mosque, the cathedral, the country church, from the country club to the mountain holler. A bit like the Rivertown Kids assembled for this project, in fact.

“Let’s sing with children often,” Pete counsels in his narration in “Quite Early Morning,” the album’s gentle opening instrumental, “and pass on the songs and stories. And the children will have a lot to say, too.

“More folks,” he concludes, “should listen to the children.”

Tomorrow is today. It starts here.

Tomorrow’s Children, featuring Pete Seeger with the Rivertown Kids and Friends, is available at

Visit the Rivertown Kids for the Environment blog at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024