Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Pete Seeger

If I Had a Hammer

First recorded (as “The Hammer Song”) by The Weavers (1950).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #10 1962), Trini Lopez (US #3 1963).

From the wiki: “‘If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)’ was written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, and was first recorded by The Weavers in 1950. It was not particularly successful in commercial terms when it was first released. (The song was first performed publicly by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays on June 3, 1949, at St. Nicholas Arena in New York City at a testimonial dinner for the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States. It was later part of the three songs Seeger played as the warm-up act for Paul Robeson’s September 4, 1949, concert near Peekskill, New York, which subsequently erupted into a riot.)

“‘If I Had a Hammer’ went on to become a Top-10 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962, and then went to #3 a year later when recorded by Trini Lopez.”

Loddy Lo

Written and first recorded (as “Hey Lolly Lolly”) by Woody Guthrie (1944, released 1952).
Also recorded by Pete Seeger (as “Hey Li-Lee”, 1954), The Vipers Skiffle Group (sa “Hey Liley Liley Lo”, 1957), The Limeliters (as “Hey Li Lee Li Lee”, 1961).
Hit version by Chubby Checker (US #12/R&B #4 1963).

From the wiki: “Woody Guthrie recorded a version of “Hey Lolly Lolly” in 1944 which was not released until 1952. Pete Seeger recorded ‘Hey Li-Lee’ in 1954 but the song did not first gain wide familiarity until The Limeliters recorded their variation, ‘Hey Li Lee Li Lee’, during the early ’60s Folk music revival. Chubby Checker further adapted the song, recording ‘Hey Lolly Lolly’ in 1963 and going Top 20 with it on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top 5 US R&B charts.”

Guantanamera

First recorded (as “Guajira Guantanamera”) by Joséito Fernández (1940).
Also recorded by Pete Seeger (1963).
Hit versions by The Sandpipers (US #9/MOR #3/UK #7/CAN #10/IRE #3 1966), Los Paraguayos (UK #187 1996), The Fugees & Wyclef Jean (US #62/R&B #23/UK #25 1987).

From the wiki: “‘Guantanamera’ (Spanish: ‘from Guantánamo, feminine’, thus ‘she from Guantánamo’) is perhaps the best-known Cuban song and that country’s most noted patriotic song. The music for the song is sometimes attributed to José Fernández Diaz, known as Joseíto Fernández, who claimed to have written it at various dates (consensus puts 1929 as its year of origin), and who used it regularly in one of his radio programs. After a lengthy copyright dispute, the People’s Supreme Court of Cuba credited Fernández as the sole composer of the music in 1993.

“The version recorded in 1963 by Pete Seeger (‘Turn! Turn! Turn!‘, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)‘), for his We Shall Overcome album, was based on lyrics written by Cuban patriot José Martí and is said to be the definitive recording of ‘Guantanamera’. Seeger combined Martí’s verse with the tune, with the intention that it be used by the peace movement at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. He urged that people sing the song as a symbol of unity between the American and Cuban peoples. The most commercially-successful version of ‘Guantanamera’ in the English-speaking world was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966.”

Big Rock Candy Mountain

First recorded (as “Big Rock Candy Mountains”) by Harry McClintock (1928).
Popular versions by Burl Ives (1949), Pete Seeger (1957), Dorsey Burnette (B-side US #102 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’, first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, is a folk music song about a hobo’s idea of paradise – a place where ‘hens lay soft boiled eggs’ and there are ‘cigarette trees’. McClintock claimed to have written the song in 1895, based on tales from his youth hobo-ing through the United States, but some believe that at least aspects of the song have existed for far longer. McClintock was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), and the author of other labor songs as ‘Haywire Mac’, ‘Sam Bass’ and ‘Hallelujah Bum Again’. His original 1928 recording was used on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack (minus the plural form). The song achieved widespread popularity in 1949 when a sanitized version intended for children was recorded by Burl Ives. A version recorded in 1960 by Dorsey Burnette reached #102 on Billboard’s chart.

Black and White

First recorded by Pete Seeger (1956).
Also recorded by Sammy Davis Jr. (1957), Earl Robinson (1957), The (UK) Spinners (1969), Maytones (1970).
Hit versions by Greyhound (UK #6/NETH #2 1971), Three Dog Night (US #1/CAN #1/AST #8/GER #24 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Black and White’ was written in 1954 by David I. Arkin (father of actor Alan Arkin) and Earl Robinson, inspired by the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in US public schools. ‘Black and White’ was first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956, followed by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1957 (for a limited-edition Anti-Defamation League EP) and a version recorded by song co-writer Earl Robinson. The original Folk song lyrics (not used in either Greyhound’s or Three Dog Night’s versions) include the line ‘Their robes were black, their heads were white’, referring to the Supreme Court justices.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

First recorded (as “To Everything There is a Season”) by The Limeliters (1962).
Also recorded by Pete Seeger (1962), Judy Collins (1963).
Hit version by The Byrds (US #1/UK #26 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)’, often abbreviated to ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted word-for-word from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and first recorded in 1962. The song was originally released as ‘To Everything There Is a Season’ on The Limeliters’ album Folk Matinee and later released then some months later on Seeger’s own album The Bitter and the Sweet.

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