General

Garbage, Garbage, Garbage!

I learned this song at summer camp — a camp which was, not coincidentally, run by Pete’s elder brother John Seeger, who died last year at age 95.  At Camp Killooleet, community singing was a regular feature, and one of the musicians who led the kids was a guy named George Ward; I learned this song from hearing him sing it.

Here’s Pete Seeger:

Mr. Thompson calls the waiter, orders steak and baked potato,
and he leaves the bone and gristle and he never eats the skin.
The busboy comes and takes it, with a cough contaminates it,
and he leaves it in a can with coffee grounds and sardine tins.

And the truck comes by on Friday and takes it all away,
and a thousand trucks just like it are converging on the bay….

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

He climbs into his Cadillac and drives it up the freeway track,
leaving friends and neighbors in a hydrocarbon haze,
he’s joined the lots of smaller cars all sending gases to the stars,
there to form a seething cloud that hangs for thirty days.

While the sun licks down upon it with its ultraviolet tongues,
it turns to smog and settles down and winds up in our lungs….

Garbage! (garbage, garbage, garbage)
Garbage! (garbage, garbage, garbage)
We’re filling up the air with garbage! (garbage, garbage, garbage)
What will we do when there’s nothing left to breathe
but garbage? (garbage, garbage, garbage)

Getting home and taking off his shoes, he settles down with the evening news,
The kids are doing homework with the TV in one ear,
While Superman for the thousandth time sells talking dolls and conquers crime,
they dutifully 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….

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

In Mr. 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 ask them questions they say “why don’t you see?
It’s absolutely needed for the economy.”

Garbage! (garbage, garbage, garbage)
Their stocks and their bonds all garbage! (garbage, garbage, garbage)
What will they do when their system go to smash
there’s no value to their cash
there’s no money to be made
that there’s a world to be repaid
their kids will read in history book
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)


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.

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