Pete Seeger - MRS MC GRATH

First performance: 20/04/2006


Coverinfo

Bruce recorded the song with The Seeger Sessions Band for his 2006 album We Shall Overcome:  The album was recorded over the course of nine years at Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ: During these sessions, all of the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Springsteen's farmhouse – they were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted by Springsteen as he and the band played them. "We were doing trapeze without a safety net," Sam Barfeld told Backstreets magazine. "He plays the song for you once, a couple of arrangement ideas. Have enough time to scrawl out a chord chart, and then boom! You record."
 
' Mrs Mc Grath ' was recorded during the second session  
 
First Session : 02/11/1997 
 
  • Soon after the conclusion of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's short Vote For Change Tour, Springsteen was liaising with manager Jon Landau regarding material for a potential future second volume of the Tracks boxed set. Some of the leftover material from the 02 Nov 1997 session was being evaluated and out of those discussions came the idea of releasing this session material as a stand-alone album project. "Thanks to Jon Landau for another one of his 'I think we've got something here...' phone calls," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of the 2006 album.  
 
Second Session: 19/03/2005  
There were not enough songs recorded on 02 Nov 1997 to fill an album, so the original 1997 musicians were contacted again and an additional recording session took place on 19 Mar 2005, just prior to Springsteen embarking on his Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. Nine songs were recorded during the second session: ERIE CANAL, JOHN HENRY, O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP, PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN, OLD DAN TUCKER, FROGGIE WENT A COURTIN', SHENANDOAH, MRS. MCGRATH, and MICHAEL ROW YOUR BOAT ASHORE. Eight of the songs recorded during this second session ended up on the album. 
 
Third Session: 14/01/2006
Springsteen undertook a third and final studio session following the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. There were eight songs recorded during the third session: JACOB'S LADDER, BUFFALO GALS, EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING?, AMERICAN LAND, BRING 'EM HOME, IF I HAD A HAMMER (THE HAMMER SONG), and 
WORRIED MAN BLUES.
 
 
 
 
 
"..This song was, uh….this song was written and first published in 1815 in Dublin and uh…. they had to write it then and they still gotta write it now and it´s a shame…."
 
Bruce changed the traditional lyrics slightly. In the original song, Mrs. McGrath would rather have her "son as he used to be than the King of France and his whole navy." In Springsteen's version, this is changed to "King of America."
 
Bruce performed the song 61 times, all during the Seeger Sessions Tour : 
 
 
 
 
2006-04-20 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-24 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-25 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-26 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-30 - NEW ORLEANS FAIRGROUNDS, NEW ORLEANS, LA (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival)
2006-05-05 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-05-07 - MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS ARENA, MANCHESTER, ENGLAND
2006-05-08 - HAMMERSMITH APOLLO, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-05-09 - LSO ST LUKE'S, LONDON, ENGLAND (BBC)
2006-05-10 - PALAIS OMNISPORTS DE PARIS-BERCY, PARIS, FRANCE
2006-05-12 - DATCH FORUM, MILAN, ITALY
2006-05-14 - PAVELLÓ OLÍMPIC DE BADALONA, BARCELONA, SPAIN
2006-05-16 - HEINEKEN MUSIC HALL, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
2006-05-17 - FESTHALLE, FRANKFURT, GERMANY
2006-05-20 - OSLO SPEKTRUM, OSLO, NORWAY
2006-05-21 - HOVET, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
2006-05-27 - TWEETER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, MANSFIELD, MA
2006-05-28 - NISSAN PAVILION, BRISTOW, VA
2006-05-30 - GERMAIN AMPHITHEATER, COLUMBUS, OH
2006-05-31 - VERIZON WIRELESS MUSIC CENTER, NOBLESVILLE, IN
2006-06-03 - GLENDALE ARENA, GLENDALE, AZ
2006-06-05 - GREEK THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CA
2006-06-06 - SLEEP TRAIN PAVILION, CONCORD, CA
2006-06-10 - WELLS FARGO ARENA, DES MOINES, IA
2006-06-11 - XCEL ENERGY CENTER, ST. PAUL, MN
2006-06-13 - FIRST MIDWEST BANK AMPHITHEATER, TINLEY PARK, IL
2006-06-14 - BRADLEY CENTER, MILWAUKEE, WI
2006-06-16 - BLOSSOM MUSIC CENTER, CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH
2006-06-17 - DTE ENERGY MUSIC THEATRE, CLARKSTON, MI
2006-06-19 - SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY
2006-06-20 - TWEETER CENTER AT THE WATERFRONT, CAMDEN, NJ
2006-06-22 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY, NY
2006-06-24 - PNC BANK ARTS CENTER, HOLMDEL, NJ
2006-06-25 - PNC BANK ARTS CENTER, HOLMDEL, NJ
2006-10-01 - PALAMALAGUTI, BOLOGNA, ITALY
2006-10-02 - PALAISOZAKI, TORINO, ITALY
2006-10-04 - VILLA MANIN, UDINE, ITALY
2006-10-05 - ARENA DI VERONA, VERONA, ITALY
2006-10-07 - ARENA SANTA GIULIANA, PERUGIA, ITALY
2006-10-08 - PALAMAGGIÒ, CASERTA, ITALY
2006-10-10 - PALALOTTOMATICA, ROME, ITALY
2006-10-12 - COLOR LINE ARENA, HAMBURG, GERMANY
2006-10-13 - SPORTPALEIS AHOY, ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
2006-10-19 - PLAZA DE TOROS DE LAS VENTAS, MADRID, SPAIN
2006-10-21 - ESTADIO CIUTAT DE VALÈNCIA, VALENCIA, SPAIN
2006-10-22 - PLAZA DE TOROS DE GRANADA, GRANADA, SPAIN
2006-10-24 - PALAU SANT JORDI, BARCELONA, SPAIN
2006-10-25 - PABELLÓN DEPORTIVO, SANTANDER, SPAIN
2006-10-28 - PARKEN STADIUM, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
2006-10-29 - OSLO SPEKTRUM, OSLO, NORWAY
2006-10-30 - GLOBE ARENA, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
2006-11-06 - KÖLNARENA, COLOGNE, GERMANY
2006-11-07 - SPORTPALEIS, ANTWERP, BELGIUM
2006-11-09 - THE NEC ARENA, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
2006-11-11 - WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-11-12 - WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-11-14 - HALLAM FM ARENA, SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND
2006-11-17 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-18 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-19 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-21 - ODYSSEY ARENA, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
 

Songinfo

"Mrs. McGrath" (also known as "Mrs. McGraw", "My Son Ted", "My Son John", and "The Sergeant and Mrs. McGrath") is an Irish folk song set during the Peninsular War of the early 19th century. The song tells the story of a woman whose son enters the British Army and returns seven years later having lost his legs to a cannonball while fighting against Napoleon presumably at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro (fought between 3 and 5 May 1811). The general theme of the song is one of opposition to war. Along with "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye", it is one of the most graphic of all Irish folk songs that deal with sickness and injuries caused by warfare. Irish folk song collector Colm Ó Lochlainn described "Mrs. Grath" as "known to every true born citizen of Dublin". It was very popular among the Irish Volunteers in the years leading up to the 1916 Rising and has been recorded by many singers and folk groups. Although the song probably dates from the time of the Peninsular Wars between 1807 and 1814, the earliest written account of it in Ireland was in 1876, although it is believed to have been popular with soldiers during the American Civil War (1861-1865). 
 
 
 

Bruce on the artist

In 2006, Bruce released  the album ' We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions' . The album contains Springsteen's interpretation of thirteen folk music songs associated with Pete Seeger. The project began in late 1997 when Springsteen agreed to contribute a recording for an upcoming Pete Seeger tribute album on Appleseed Recordings. "Growing up a rock n' roll kid I didn't know a lot about Pete's music or the depth of his influence," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of his 2006 album. He headed to the record store, came back with an armful of Pete Seeger records, and proceeded to investigate and listen to his music.
 
More info on Springsteenlyrics.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
"As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama's Inaugural Celebration, he told me the entire story of "We Shall Overcome". How it moved from a labor movement song and with Pete's inspiration had been adapted by the civil rights movement. That day as we sang "This Land Is Your Land" I looked at Pete, the first black president of the United States was seated to his right, and I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. My own growing up in the sixties in towns scarred by race rioting made that moment nearly unbelievable and Pete had thirty extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was ao happy that day, it was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man!...It was so nice. At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing, like fifteen degrees and Pete was there; he had his flannel shirt on. I said, man, you better wear something besides that flannel shirt! He says, yeah, I got my longjohns on under this thing. And I asked him how he wanted to approach "This Land Is Your Land". It would be near the end of the show and all he said was, "Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, about private property and the relief office." I thought, of course, that's what Pete's done his whole life. He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we'd like to leave out of our history as a people. At some point Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history. He'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete's somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won't let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself. Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light toward our better angels and the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us. Now on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve. He has become comfortable and casual in this immense role. He's funny and very eccentric. I'm gonna bring Tommy out, and the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing I wrote in the mid-nineties and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own moorings. Its last verse is the beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of The Grapes of Wrath."

'Wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there'

"Well, Pete has always been there. For me that speech is always aspirational. For Pete, it's simply been a way of life. The singer in my song is in search of the ghost of Tom Joad. The spirit who has the guts and toughness to carry forth, to fight for and live their ideals. I'm happy to report that spirit, the very ghost of Tom Joad is with us in the flesh tonight. He'll be on this stage momentarily, he's gonna look an awful lot like your granddad who wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad could kick your ass. ..

This is for Pete... "
 

Lyrics

"O Mrs. McGrath, " the sergeant said
"Would you like a soldier of your son Ted?
With a scarlet coat and a big cocked hat
Now Mrs. McGrath would you like that?"
With your too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
Now Mrs. McGrath lived on the shore
And after seven years or more
She spied a ship come into the bay
With her son from far away
"O Captain dear where have ye been?
You been sailing the Mediterranean?
Have you news from my son Ted?
Is he living or is he dead?"
With your too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with your too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
Then came Ted without any legs
And in their place two wooden pegs
She kissed him a dozen times or two
And said, "My God Ted is it you"?
Now were ye drunk or were ye blind
When ye left yer two fine legs behind?
Or was it walking upon the sea
That wore your two fine legs away?"
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
Now I wasn't drunk and I wasn't blind
When I left my two fine legs behind
A cannonball on the fifth of May
Tore my two fine legs away
"My, Teddy boy, " the widow cried
"Yer two fine legs were yer mother's pride
Stumps of a tree wouldn't do at all
Why didn't ye run from the cannon ball?"
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
"All foreign wars I do proclaim
Live on blood and a mother's pain
I'd rather have my son as he used to be
Than the King of America
And his whole Navy!"
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa
With a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa, with a too-ri-aa, fol-did-dle-di-aa, too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa