Peter, Paul & Mary - If I Had A Hammer

Peter, Paul & Mary

If I Had A Hammer

Warner Bros.

Release Date: August 9th, 1962

Words by: Whaley Big Jesus
December 15th, 1962

The iconic/infamous folk trio give us a good, harmony-heavy rendition of this folk traditional originally penned by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.

The reason I write: 'iconic/infamous' really goes to the heart of critiquing this track. Iconic if you simply consider the quality of the harmonising voices, the uplifting crescendos and the all round musicianship–which overall give us a quality recording of 'if I had a hammer'.

Infamous when you pose the question: should Peter, Paul & Mary really be singing this song given what the group stood for?

This song is a monolith of the folk genre–in the Woody Guthrie, Seeger sense of the word 'folk'. It's about community, all working together for a common good. It certainly wasn't written by Seeger with any view toward personally benefiting financially, that's not how members of the communist party roll so I'm told. Is it okay then for Peter, Paul & Mary–under the guidance of ruthless manager extraordinaire, Albert Grossman–to go and cash in on tunes like this, and many other folk traditionals? PP&M are, after all, often accused of being the first ones to really exploit and monetise folk music. If we consider it in this light maybe it leaves a gall-ish taste in our mouths.

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