Pete Seeger turend 94 yesterday and we were singin If I had a hammer in a tower in Italy to celebrate him and his life.
One of music’s most powerful attributes is its ability to bring people together around a cause, a theme Bill Moyers has explored many times with a variety of artists. Below are four conversations he has had with Pete Seeger, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Johnny Cash and Tom Morello — who have all delve deeply into music’s power to inspire, unite, and strike a common chord.
Along with his friend Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger is credited for sparking the folk music revival that swept America in the 1960s and played a role in the social movements that gained traction during that decade.
Bernice Johnson Reagon — singer, civil rights activist and scholar. Along with Cordell Reagon, Rutha Harris and Charles Neblett, Bernice founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Freedom Singers, the first group of freedom singers to travel nationally.
One of the many things Johnny Cash is remembered for are his prison performances, during which he showed a heartfelt empathy for inmates. At Huntsville State Prison in 1957, Cash’s performance of “Amazing Grace” held special potency for crowds of convicted felons.
Like Woody Guthrie (whose guitar was famously inscribed with the slogan “This Machine Kills Fascists”), former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello uses his instrument to “steel the backbone of people on the frontlines of social justice struggles.”
IF I HAD A HAMMER (The Hammer Song) words and music by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger If I had a hammer I'd hammer in the morning I'd hammer in the evening All over this land I'd hammer out danger I'd hammer out a warning I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land If I had a bell I'd ring it in the morning I'd ring it in the evening All over this land I'd ring out danger I'd ring out a warning I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land If I had a song I'd sing it in the morning I'd sing it in the evening All over this land I'd sing out danger I'd sing out a warning I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land Well I've got a hammer And I've got a bell And I've got a song to sing All over this land It's the hammer of justice It's the bell of freedom It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land ©1958, 1962 (renewed), 1986 (renewed) TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)