In 1980 I was on the Walk for Survival, a peace walk tracing the path of the Trident Submarine missiles from Sunnyvale, California to Bangor, Washington, where the submarines were based. Thirty or so of us walked for three and a a half months, talking to people, leafletting, holding rallies, and struggling and celebrating all that it means to be a mobile community. It was an incredible experience, beautiful and troubling, and capped off by walking through the ash of an exploding Mount St Helens.
We stayed in churches, tents, community centers, and people’s homes.In the bookstore of a Quaker center of some kind near San Francisco, I came across a spiral bound book called “Winds of the People.” It contained hundreds of songs that I knew, with simple chords and brief attributions to sources. I bought it instantly, and used it on the Walk. It was a hymnal for group singing, when you just couldn’t remember the third verse to James Taylor’s “Country Road,” or if you couldn’t quite figure out the chord change in “Little Help From My Friends.” Not all the chords were accurate, incidentally, but they were better than nothing.
Winds of the People morphed into a larger, more comprehensive songbook called “Rise Up Singing.” Peter Blood and Annie Patterson put it together, to have a folk music “fake book” with more songs for all, 1200 I think. I used to sell them when I was the coordinator of the Midwest People’s Music Network, spreading a tool to help people sing together. I know that folk circles across the country would sometimes hold group sings, with “Rise Up Singing” as the source for the songs. The book is legit and aboveground these days: you can buy it on Amazon.
Now there’s a new version called “Rise Again” available here soon. I’m proud to say that three of my songs are in it: “One Crane,” “So Many Ways to Be Smart,” and “Music in My Mother’s House.” It’s an honor, because many of my songs are written with the intention of being easy to sing by groups. These three do fit that bill of that.
I’ll look forward to seeing the book when it’s actually available. Everyone who loves to sing should own a copy, to have all the lyrics in one place. The internet, my usual source of lyrics, might not be available some day, but we’ll still be able to Rise Up Singing, keeping the songs and the joy alive.
And in celebration, here’s a link to a video of a high school group singing “Music in My Mother’s House.” The song’s been around!!!