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Pete Seeger Performs "Garbage"

Earth Day Anthem

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"The Guitar Is Mightier Than The Bomb"

Folk music icon and activist Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014) performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters in his 90s, leaning on two canes. He wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power.

Just as the "pen is mightier than the sword", Seeger believed "The guitar is mightier than the bomb".

In this video Pete Seeger performs the brilliant Earth Day anthem titled "Garbage".

Every word is just as poignant and relevant today though the song was written in 1969.

Folk musician Bill Steele wrote the song, but Seeger added the powerful 4th verse (beginning with "In Mister Thompson's factory, they're making plastic Christmas trees ...") and a new chorus, decrying the effects of corporations and capitalism.

Note to all songwriters...and everyone else: Look at this man's life. He urges you to use your voice to inspire, to influence, to stand up, and be part of changing your generation's course!


Mister Thompson calls the waiter, orders steak and baked potato
Then he leaves the bone and gristle and he never eats the skins;
The busboy comes and takes it, with a cough contaminates it
And puts it in a can with coffee grinds and sardine tins;
The truck comes by on Friday and carts it all away; And a thousand trucks just like it are converging on the Bay, oh,

Garbage (garbage, garbage, garbage) Garbage!
We’re filling up the sea with garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do when there’s no place left
To put all the garbage? (garbage. . .)

Mr. Thompson starts his Cadillac and winds it down the freeway track
Leaving friends and neighbors in a hydro-carbon haze;
He’s joined by lots of smaller cars all sending gases to the stars.
There they form a seething cloud that hangs for thirty days.
And the sun licks down into it with an ultraviolet tongue.
Till it turns to smog and settles down and ends up in our lungs, oh,

Garbage (garbage. . .) Garbage!
We’re filling up the sky with garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do
When there’s nothing left to breathe but garbage (garbage. . .)

Getting home and taking off his shoes he settles down with the evening news,
While the kids do homework with the TV in one ear
While Superman for the thousandth time sells talking dolls and conquers crime
Dutifully they learn the date of birth of Paul Revere.
In the paper there’s a piece about the mayor’s middle name,
And he gets it done in time to watch the all-star bingo game, oh,

Garbage (garbage. . .)
We’re filling up our minds with garbage
Garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do when there’s nothing left to read
And there’s nothing left to need
And there’s nothing left to watch
And there’s nothing left to touch
And there’s nothing left to walk upon
And there’s nothing left to talk upon
Nothing left to see
And there’s nothing left to be but
Garbage (garbage. . .)

In Mister Thompson’s factory, they’re making plastic Christmas trees
Complete with silver tinsel and a geodesic stand
The plastic’s mixed in giant vats from some conglomeration
That’s been piped from deep within the earth or strip-mined from the land.
And if you question anything, they say, “Why, don’t you see?
It’s absolutely needed for the economy,” oh,

Oh, Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
There stocks and their bonds — all garbage!
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
What will they do when their system goes to smash
There’s no value to their cash
There’s no money to be made
But there’s a world to be repaid
Their kids will read in history books
About financiers and other crooks
And feudalism, and slavery
And nukes and all their knavery
To history’s dustbin they’re consigned
Along with many other kinds of garbage.
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!

Words and Music by Bill Steele; 4th verse by Pete Seeger and Mike Agranoff (1977)
(c) William Steele. Copyright assigned 1992 to the Rainbow Collection, Ltd.