Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Waist deep in Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's "folk big band" has been touring the globe playing rousingly sloppy arrangements of the music Pete Seeger brought to the stage well over a half century ago.

The album is fine. It's not one I play often, but it is fun and I've always admired Springsteen for, if not not repeating himself, then not repeating himself anywhere near as often as any other artist of his stature. And the record sounds like it was great fun to record, to corral all that energy without squelching it was a real accomplishment.

But there's one thing that's been bugging me since the record was announced, and it's been bugging me even more the longer the tour rolls on and his fans dutifully post each night's set list on the internet.

Given Springsteen's politics and the current debacle that is the War in Iraq it just puzzles me why he has chosen not to add one of Seeger's most timely and powerful originals.

Blacklisted from television in the US in 1963, Seeger was finally brought back for a performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, but it wasn't until a return appearance in 1968 that he was permitted to sing this song, and sing it he did.

Until recently there was a clip from the 1968 performance on YouTube but it's now been pulled for "copyright violation" (another blog waiting to happen). This video uses Seeger's recording and is pretty good if you're not familiar with the music.

Look at the lyrics and, if you have Bruce's cell phone number, drop a dime and ask him what gives? Why isn't this part of every night's encore?

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep!
Soon even a Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!


nora said...

I saw the Springsteen show this summer, and it ranks as one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Of course, there cannot be too many banjos or mandolins for me.
Thanks for the words to the Seeger song.

Stan Denski said...

I heard that was a great show; last time for me was The Murat in 96, Tom Joad Tour (1st time was 1973 in Palmyra NJ at Uncle Al's Earlton Lounge. $1 cover and $1 beers... dang.