Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Pete Seeger wrote the first three verses of the song in 1955, while on a plane going to a concert in Ohio. He was inspired by a passage from...

Pete Seeger wrote the first three verses of the song in 1955, while on a plane going to a concert in Ohio. He was inspired by a passage from a traditional Ukrainian folk song which he had read about in the novel  And Quiet Flows the Don written in 1934 by russian Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mikhail Sholokhov. The remaining two verses were added by Joe Hickerson five years later.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? is one of The antiwar, more specifically antimilitarism, songs of all time. In its simplicity and kind tune it gives a sense of boredom about everything that war involves. In fact it is a circular song, it ends where it started, and it summarizes the consequences of war: the flowers have been taken by the young girls, the girls have been gone married to the young men, the young men have become soldiers, the soldiers have been gone to the graveyards, the graveyards have been covered with flowers.

Many versions have been sung by many different artists, but oneof the most legendary performances, was Marlene Dietrich‘s. She sang the song for the first time in French during a UNICEF concert, but the unforgettable occasion was when she sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone? in German during a tour in Israel, breaking for the first time the tabboof using German in that country since WW2.

Lyrics

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them, ev’ry one.
Oh, When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone to young men, ev’ry one.
Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young men gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers, ev’ry one.
When will we ever learn? Oh, when we ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
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Sounds from the Bucket
Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.
One Comment
  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger hawcroft
    4 July 2015 at 3:30 am
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    Such a strong tradition of anti-war sentiment in folk music. Not surprising, given that “folk music” is just that – the music of common people. Reflecting the oral tradition it records the stories, anecdotes, discussion and conservations of people sitting around campfires, huddled under bridges, in family groups around the cottage dinner table, in lengthy nomadic treks from one climatic region or food source to another, drinking together at the pub, or drinking thick black coffee with others in the market-place.

    It is a briliant and enlightening medium *because* it emanates from the people and carries their culture, their langage, their traditions, their situation, their hopes, their fears, their laughing, their crying, their living, their dying.

    Our leaders and politicians would do well to listen and if truly interested in the welfare of humanity, as opposed to their own eggrandisement they would welcome the information it provides. They need to also recognise that “rock ‘n roll”, “blues”, “hip-hop”, “rap” and many other musical mediums have and do represent the “folk” music of those who originated, produced and listened or listen to them. Folk is not some narrowly defined genre of acoustic guitars, simple rhythms and the past. It is a medium that transcends time and place and ethnicity, whilst carrying all those elements within itself – an understanding and relationship with folk is transformational – an eloquent yet simple entry into the human condition.

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