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Pete Seeger wrote this song as a call for peace. He was inspired by Mikhail Sholokhov's novel And Quiet Flows the Don
, which is about Czarist Russia. In a 1988 interview with Paul Zollo, Seeger explained: "In one of the early chapters, it describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Czar's army. And they're singing: 'Where are the flowers? The girls have plucked them. Where are the girls? They've all taken husbands. Where are the men? They're all in the army. Gallop, gallop, gallop, wheeeee!' I stuck the words in my pocket. A year or two or three went by and I never had time to look up the original. Meanwhile, I'm sitting in a plane, kind of dozing. And all of a sudden came a line I had thought about five years earlier: 'long time passing.' I thought that those three words sang well. All of a sudden I fitted the two together, along with the intellectual's perennial complaining, 'When will we ever learn?'" (this appears in Zollo's book Songwriters On Songwriting
Seeger's lyrics show how war and suffering can by cyclical in nature: girls pick flowers, men pick girls, men go to war and fill graves with their dead which get covered with flowers. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The folk group Peter, Paul And Mary began playing this, and when The Kinston Trio saw them perform it in concert, they recorded it the next day.
Movie star Marlene Dietrich recorded a German version. In 1965, Johnny Rivers hit #26 with his cover.
Peter, Paul And Mary re-recorded this in 1997 for a public service announcement featuring guns, grieving families, deceased kids, and white coffins. It was renamed "Where Have All The Children Gone," and this ad of the same name was from the US Department of Justice, the National Crime Prevention Council, and the Ad Council. (thanks, Tiffany - Dover, FL)
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