Pete's Role in Our Songbooks
Beginnings. When Peter was working on creating Winds of the People (an early underground version of Rise Up Singing), he had no idea how to get permissions for songs. He somehow got Pete's phone number from a friend & called him up. Pete's reply: "Don't bother to ask [the big copyright companies]. They'll only say no!"
After a number of years, we were interested in creating an above ground version of that collection that could be sold much more widely. We approached the board of the nonprofit that publishes Sing Out! Magazine (which Pete had founded in 1950). At that time both Pete & Toshi were on the board of directors.
Some members of the board questioned whether SO should take on the project. Pete & Toshi were eloquent in urging the board to adopt the project, saying that this was just the kind of tool for encouraging grassroots shared "people's" music that Sing Out had always stood for. They won the day!
Licensing. Pete's manager, Harold Leventhal, played a huge role in persuading major music publishers like Warner Brothers and Harold to provide licenses for the new book. He'd call them up and say "You know how you owe me a favor?" and "Hey come on: they're only asking to print the lyrics so it won't really interfere with your fakebook or sheet music sales."
Selection. Pete was active in the selection process - suggesting countless songs to be included.
His Intro to the book. Pete wrote a simple but powerful introduction for Rise Up Singing. It provided precisely the right context for the book and was prophetic about the ways in which it would ultimately be used. In later years he liked to say that his intro in the songbook was appeared in more copies then anything he ever wrote & was one of his best pieces he ever wrote. You can hear him reading this intro in the 2007 documentary film about Pete "The Power of Song".
Promoting the book. Pete has praised the book countless times on stage at his concerts over the years, describing it as an example of the kind of music he has believed in. He wrote that "This book is making a qualitative difference in music in this country."
Where Have All the Flowers Gone. In the early 1990's Pete's manager Harold Leventhal wanted him to make a songbook as a way of establishing more strongly his connection with the songs he had written, which (like the title song in the collection) were often confused as being traditional songs. Pete said he told Harold and Sing Out that he would only do the book if I (Peter) would be his editor for the project. The book gradually evolved into being much more than a songbook, including his thoughts on songwriting, diversity, social change, as well as countless personal stories of his family and musical work.
Rise Again. In 1998, Sing Out approached us (Annie & Peter) asking us to create a sequel to Rise Up Singing. A committee was formed to select songs for the new collection. Pete served on that committee and played a major role in (once again) suggesting songs and attending weekends where we "tried out" hundreds of songs for the new collection. (The new book was to be titled Spread Your Wings when Sing Out was involved.)
Unfortunately, Sing Out ultimately was never able to move forward with this new book. When we were finally told by Sing Out in 2011 that they would not be doing the new book, Pete urged us to take the book to Hal Leonard Books, which has been the music trade distributor for Rise Up Singing. (Because it had been so many years, we revisited the original songlist for the new collection. As a result list for the new collection has been greatly changed since the original list presented to Sing Out in 1999.)
We asked Pete if he still wanted to write the forward for the new collection. He said, "Find someone younger!" But about a year before he died during a visit to his home in January of 2013, Pete did write a preface for Rise Again, which will be included in the new songbook.