Preface by Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger wrote the Introduction to Rise Up Singing. We asked him if he wanted to write the intro also for the new book and he said: "Ask somebody much younger!" A year before he died, however, we spent a day going over plans in detail for the new book. He agreed to have a shot at dictating a very brief preface. This is what he spoke (which was included as the preface to Rise Again):
Why is singing good for the planet? Nobody can put it in words. But if there is a human race here in a hundred years, my guess is that one of the main reasons will be we found ways we can sing together – different religions, different languages. The act of singing together makes us realize we’re human beings – we can’t put it in words. And to a certain extent all the arts are important that way – the dancing arts, the cooking arts, the humor arts.
But the older I get the more I’m convinced that if there’s a human race here, singing will be one of the main reasons why. Singing together, not solo singing. Singing together. Families can sing together and strangers can sing together. People who think they hate each other can sing together.
And perhaps if we find the right songs, people so filled with hate they carry a gun with them: we can reach them too. Who knows?
- Pete Seeger, Beacon NY, February 2, 2013
When Seeger said "ask somebody younger", we asked if he had a suggestion. He replied, "Why not ask Billy Bragg?" (the English activist singer songwriter). We were able to connect with Bragg via the American Federation of Musicians' Local 1000 - the local for traveling musicians, which he and we are both active members of. Below is Bragg's forward to Rise Again:
I think Ol’ Pete was on to something there with his plea for us to sing together. So many people interact with the world now through some kind of keyboard and screen, carrying their whole identity round with them on a silicon chip. The time we might have once spent socialising together we now spend online. If Woody were here, he’d wryly point out that you can experience a download, but you can’t download an experience.
Maybe that’s why more people are going to gigs than ever before. Live music offers something that you can’t get on the internet – the sense of communion that comes from singing along to your favourite song knowing that everybody else in the room is feeling the same as you. Somehow singing the song takes you out of your shell and gives you permission to laugh or dance or cry or all three together. Most importantly, it gives you permission to share your emotions with everyone else, and to be lifted up and affirmed by their vocal responses.
That’s the greatest kind of solidarity, the kind that makes you feel that you’re not alone, that there are others who feel the way you do and are not afraid to show it. It's the kind of solidarity that recharges your batteries for whatever struggles you might face in your life – be they personal or political.
This collection is a celebration of that solidarity and an invitation to sing together. A wise person once said that the only bad thing you can do to a song is not sing it. So don’t be shy, go right ahead - open up a page and sing together in the solidarity of song.
Billy Bragg, Dorset, England, April 2015