After Red Channels named them as Communist sympathizers in 1950, Lee Hays of the Weavers took the fifth when he appeared before the HUAC and his partner in this pioneering folk quartet, Pete Seeger refused to even do that (on 1st Amendment grounds). Pete was convicted of contempt and placed under court ordered restrictions. There were additional punishments. DECCA deleted all Weavers recordings from the catalog, a broadcast ban against their songs was put in place and whatever concerts they arranged got disrupted by anti-Red protests.
The Weavers disbanded in 1952 but in Dec. '55 they reunited for a sold out Carnegie Hall show that was recorded by indie label VANGUARD, an LP that sold well. It took until a 1968 appearance on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR for Seeger to finally get beyond the broadcast ban. In that light and given the volatile times, it's surprising COLUMBIA was willing to issue his DANGEROUS SONGS!? (CL 2503/CS9303) album in '66, as some of its tracks were anti-Vietnam War.
The LP's premise is that songs of protest have existed for many centuries, and in some unusual forms.
The nursery rhyme "Robin the Bobbin" dates to Henry the Eighth's takeover of the Church of England. "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" is believed to be an expression of the Scots' disapproval of their Queen, her lavish court and French chef. Although very abstract, "Little Jack Horner" represents a man who in Henry's time testified against the elderly abbot of Glastonbury. As a reward, John Horner was given a portion of seized Church lands (his Xmas pie).
Published in the early 19th Century but dating to earlier times, "Thoughts Are Free," the German protest against censorship and political oppression was used by anti-Nazi Resistance members in WWII. (Pete says Hitler banned the song.) "Jackaro" and "Old Man" are from a time when marriages were arranged and lovers had no rights of choice. Seeger performs the latter with an Irish accent, although he's not certain of its origin. Using the Methodist hymn "Say Brother, Will You Meet Us on Canaan's Happy Shore," some of the Civil War's first African American troops (regiments from Maine) wrote the lyrics to "John Brown's Body."
"Going Across" is played on a fretless mountain banjo. This ballad from the Great Smokies was given to carpenter/tobacco farmer Frank Proffitt by his grandfather. It's the song of a mountain man who joins the Union Army. (Proffitt's grandpa also taught him Tom Dooley; Frank passed it on to folkies like the Kingston Trio.) Martyred coal miners organizer "Harry Simms" was honored by this song in 1932. Lyrics to "King Henry" are adapted from a Vietnam War soldier's letter home. He was killed just weeks later. "Ode to Joy" is a solo banjo melody borrowed from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. "Goliath, Goliath" is a nursery rhyme written in Feb. of '66. "Queen Anne Front" is about what became of great-grandpa's house after he was laid to rest.
Joe Hill's adaptation of "Casey Jones" is a circa WWI commentary on working conditions at San Diego's docks. "One Grain of Sand" is an a capella performance of a song about overpopulation. It has numerous lyrics, not heard here. On a related subject, "The Pill" was composed by Glasgow's Matt McGill, a man with a houseful of kids (22!) who doesn't want any more. Fellow Weaver Fred Hellerman plays guitar and harmonizes on Phil Ochs' witty anti-war ballad, "Draft Dodger Rag." Seeger plays "Mao Tse Tung" on an ocarina. His original "Death Row" was written New Year's Day, '66. The prison reference is allegorical. Pete wrote the tune for "Full Fontal" and composed the neo-Shakespearean "Perchance" poem. The gist of kids song "Beans" is that we don't listen to each other.
[0:36] Medley: Robin the Bobbin/ Mary, Mary Quite Contrary/ Little Jack Horner
[1:41] Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughts Are Free) 1:52
[2:24] Never Wed an Old Man
[1:50] John Brown's Body
[3:07] Going Across the Mountains
[2:04] Harry Simms
[3:26] King Henry
[1:51] Medley: Ode to Joy/ Goliath, Goliath
[3:28] Queen Anne Front
[1:57] Joe Hill's "Casey Jones"
[1:49] One Grain of Sand
[2:19] The Pill
[2:08] The Draft Dodger Rag
[0:35] Mao Tse Tung
[3:41] Walking Down Death Row
[1:39] Two from Shakespeare: Full Fathom Five/ Perchance to Win
[3:20] Beans in My Ears
TOTAL TIME: 41:47