(FOR MOSTLY JUST THE MOST RECENT LYRICS TO ‘WE’RE GOING TO CHANGE HISTORIA’, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS FIRST DRAFT OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE PIECE ABOUT HOW I DECIDED TO WORK WITH THIS SONG AND THEN CHANGE ITI) got this email the other day from my nonagenarian father, a long-time progressive, having, years ago, helped lead a powerful community, along with the likes of Abbie Hoffman, to fight to save the Delaware river from the ravages of a nuclear power plant, using his powerful words, his art and his minstrel background.
“The tragic pace is picking up in our politics. I can’t imagine how this legal complexity is going to reach repose. We are watching the psychiatric breakdown of the single most powerful man on the planet, and simply because he holds the position of US President the usual checks and reservations are not in play. Trump lurches toward a fall. Just look him in the face to watch impending tragedy, or worse. Fear and fury. On TV. A chasm yawns all around the presidency; it is too real, like a sick, crashing tree. The opinion columns in the New York Times are like a chorus, with not even the attempts anymore to find the wry literary twists that are the usual fare. Politics has actually miniaturized our beloved gasping planet, and not even a march to Washington? Anybody know any neat rescue songs?”
So I wrote back: “I love "Marching to Pretoria", a tune of unknown origin used, I read, by confederates in this country’s civil war and then, also sadly, white Afrikaners put some words to it. As a boy I remember walking up trails, across roads and into sunny valleys singing it with my buddies and my heart soared, somehow, then as it still does now, like the feeling I get when taking ducks to the river. Many artists sang it in the 50s and 60s, like Pete Seeger’s The Weavers. The Smothers Brothers, did it, nice fast tempo. No good to take a good tune and toss it because some deplorable folks marched to it. As the lyrics to an Incredible String Band song goes, " Cooking soup with stale words and fresh meanings, it tastes so good". I think we could change a few words and take the song back for our own. I like these words I made up; "I'm with you and you're with me and we are all together, we are all together, we are all together...as we walk along. How about that for a verse.” (I even made up some more, below).
So here is my story: I was reading a piece recently written by a woman who was on a subway car in New York City and there was a loud, vocal right wing jerk who just kept spouting their racist, misogynist white nationalist junk and many people were asking him to stop the tirade and finally the author, who had spent some time in her life’s studies working with this subject of dealing with the ultra-right, broke out in “Row, row, row your boat…” and the crowd caught on and all began to sing and drowned out the disgruntled weirdo.
So this is the kicker: I continued to look up the various aspects of this song (Pretoria) and, of course, ran into a YouTube clip of the Weavers doing it. They started out with a short bit talking about how they have sung it for so long and did not really know where it came from, they talked about it and then they sang it and Row, Row, Row Your Boat at the same time, as if they were happily helping me write this little rescue-song piece. To top this off, I just noticed that one of the original verses sings about rowing your boat to Pretoria! Some sort of historical hysterical (no pun intended) convergence going on here. I also looked up the word, “Historia”, as I thought it might make a good alternative to “Pretoria”. As it turns out, this perfect sounding word also suggests the course of history (Trump and all that racist, sexist trash) and the need to change it, but we can also de-construct some of our historically difficult notions and myths in order to break through to the other side and reconstruct or just construct our futures in a, well, constructive way. The word is Greek in origin, then grabbed by the Romans and sounds Spanish and is a feminine word, so it can encompass a lot in its big tent; it has the makings of a great permanent Pretoria replacement.
Original lyrics:” I'm with you and you're with me, and So we row together, so we row together, so we row together. Sing with me, I'll sing with you, and so we will sing together As we march (or walk) along
Chorus between verses: We’re going to change historia, historia, historia
We’re going to change historia, historia hoorah!)
And you can put in here and there: Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, etc.
“We have food and food is good and So we will eat together, so we will eat together, so we will eat together
When we eat will be a treat and so let us sing together, As we march along”
My other verses: “We’re black and white and red and brown
And we are all together, we are all together, etc.
-We’re gay and straight, we’re bi and trans, And we are all together, etc.
-We’re boy and girl and man and woman, we are all together
-We’re young and old, sick and well, we are all together
-We’re rich and poor, we’re blue and white and we are all together
-Some pray and kneel, some think and feel, and we are all together
-Some believe in god and others don’t, but we are all together”
-When we all do well, we all do well, then we are all together….
We are all together, we are all together………
when we walk (or march) along
Hope it goes viral…! TS