How To Play “If I Had A Hammer” On Guitar?
Pete Seeger and Lee Hays wrote “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” as a protest song. It was written in favor of the progressive movement in 1949 and was initially recorded by the Weavers, a folk music quartet consisting of Seeger, Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman. It was a #10 success for Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1962. A year later when Trini Lopez sang it in 1963, it rose to #3. The song by The Weavers, titled “The Hammer Song,” was published as a 78 rpm record on Hootenanny Records, 101-A, backed with “Banks of Marble,” in March 1950.
Early Versions of “If I Had a Hammer”
Pete Seeger and Lee Hays gave the song its first-ever public performance on June 3, 1949, at St. Nicholas Arena in New York City during a testimonial dinner for the Communist Party of the United States leaders who were on trial in federal court for allegedly breaking the Smith Act by calling for the overthrow of the American government. When it was initially published, its commercial prospects were not especially promising. It was one of the three songs Seeger sang before Paul Robeson’s concert on September 4 in the vicinity of Peekskill, New York, which later descended into an infamous riot.
Hit Versions of “If I Had A Hammer”
Twelve years later, it did far better financially when Peter, Paul, and Mary recorded it. The song was covered by the group, who released their version in July 1962; it reached the Top 10. It was recognized with Grammy Awards for Best Folk Recording and Best Performance by a Vocal Group. The 1963 single by Trini Lopez peaked at number three on the same Billboard list. His album Trini Lopez at PJ’s (Reprise R/RS 6093) contained it.
Who is Peter Seeger?
American folk singer and social activist Peter Seeger. The Weavers’ performance of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950, was one of Seeger’s many successful singles during the early 1950s. Seeger was a mainstay on national radio in the 1940s. During the McCarthy Era, Weavers members were put on the blacklist. Seeger made a public comeback in the 1960s as a well-known performer of the protest song in favor of causes, including civil rights, counterculture, workers’ rights, and environmental protection.
His greatest songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “If I Had a Hammer,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” all of which have been recorded by a wide range of artists both inside and outside the folk revival movement. “Flowers” was a hit for the Kingston Trio (1962); Marlene Dietrich (1962), who sang it in English, German, and French; and Johnny Rivers (1962). (1965). “If I Had a Hammer” was a smash for Peter, Paul, and Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963), while “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a number-one song for the Byrds in 1965.
Soon after the folk singer and activist Guy Carawan first sang it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, Seeger was one of the folk singers who helped popularize the spiritual “We Shall Overcome.” This song later became known as the anthem of the civil rights struggle. Pete Seeger claimed credit for changing the song’s lyrics from the conventional “We will overcome” to the more singable “We shall overcome” in the PBS American Masters episode “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.”
Who Are Peter, Paul, and Mary?
American folk music renaissance movement saw the formation of Peter, Paul, and Mary in New York City in 1961. Tenor Peter Yarrow, baritone Paul Stookey, and contralto Mary Travers made up the trio. The group’s song list includes original compositions by Yarrow and Stookey, early Dylan tunes, and covers of songs by other folk singers. They enjoyed tremendous success in the early and middle 1960s. Their debut record spent weeks atop the charts, and they contributed to the popularity of the folk music revival. Travers passed away in 2009, but Yarrow and Stookey carried on as a partnership under their names.
According to Mary Travers, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and the Weavers influenced her music. Members of the Weavers talk about how Peter, Paul, and Mary carried on the social commentary of folk music in the 1960s in the documentary Peter, Paul & Mary: Carry It On – A Musical Legacy. In 1999, the group received induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The Songwriters Hall of Fame presented Peter, Paul, and Mary with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
Facts about “If I Had A Hammer On”
People’s Songs, a music publishing firm specializing in songs supporting different left-wing causes, including hammer and sickle Communism, was founded by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. Seeger and Hayes passed a piece of paper back and forth at the first board meeting while working on “If I Had a Hammer” lyrics to kill time. Seeger sang the song for the first time live that Labor Day at a performance advertised in a Communist newspaper. Following the enthusiastic reception from the audience, Seeger and Hays recorded “If I Had a Hammer” with their brand-new ensemble, The Weavers, for their debut album on the tiny Charter Records label. It was a collectible, according to Hayes. “Only collectors ever purchased it.”
Libby Frank, a fellow radical activist who persisted in singing “my brothers and my sisters” rather than “all of my brothers,” made some changes to the lyrics in 1952. Hayes disagreed ( “It doesn’t have the same tongue-rising effect. “All of my siblings,” perhaps? “but ultimately consented. The melody was redone by Peter, Paul, and Mary ten years later. According to Seeger, most people today sing the song exactly as it is on PPM’s recording. In October 1962, this Peter, Paul, and Mary song peaked at number 10.
The following September, Trini Lopez’s live recording of a version with a Latin flavor from PJs nightclub in Hollywood became an even larger hit (#3).
In this song
The word “hammer” refers to both power and a call to action to utilize that strength to foster love and combat injustice. Its message has remained the same over time, making it a song that has survived. Seeger received some press in a newspaper called the Daily Worker. Daily Worker circulated across New York City due to his populist, pro-union songs. The House Un-American Activities Committee, a legislative panel, tasked with rooting out domestic communism, made clear that the paper’s publisher, Communist Party USA, was a target.
On August 18, 1955, Seeger was asked to appear before the committee, and questions centered on this song. The first performance of a brand-new song, “If I Had a Hammer,” on the subject of the Foley Square trial of the Communist leaders, would be granted at a testimonial dinner for midnight on Friday at St. Nicholas Arena, according to a copy of the Daily Worker from June 1, 1949, that Chief Counsel Frank Tavenner produced. Pete Seeger and Lee Hays will be there for the singing.
Seeger was given a year in prison for contempt. However, he never had to spend it since the decision was overturned in 1962. The penalty prevented Seeger from appearing on network television until years after the decision was reversed. It was in ABC, NBC, and CBS’ greatest interest to keep Seeger off the air since they depended on Congress for their broadcast licenses.
This song was covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary,
And it became their first significant hit under the title “The Hammer Song.” It was included on their self-titled debut album in 1962 and served as their second single after “Lemon Tree,” which peaked at number 35 in the US in June 1962. In October of the same year, “If I Had a Hammer” reached the top 10. The group quickly rose to prominence as one of the leading folk music performers of the day. The song that became their anthem, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” was their next hit.
Rich Podolsky describes how his father, a record buyer for a Philadelphia chain shop, would bring home piles of 45 RPM records for his son to sift through in search of suitable candidates in his book Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear. Rich considered it an entertaining game called “find the hit.” He chose this song as his first choice from a collection of albums that he calls “one bomb after another.”
Although many protest singers consider this song a classic protest anthem, some do not. Michelle Obama requested it during Joan Baez’s 2010 performance at a White House celebration of music from the civil rights period. Still, Baez declined since she considered the song to be extremely unpleasant. She declared, “If I had a hammer, I’d knock myself in the head.”
How to Play “If I Had A Hammer On”
We’re going to talk about “If I Had a Hammer” in this post. “If I Had a Hammer” was written by Pete Seeger in 1954. The record always remembered more than any other was that of Peter, Paul, and Mary; also, Trini Lopez got a number three hit out of this song in 1963. Peter, Paul, and Mary only got a number 10 hit or something like that. Let’s just get right into it! First, let’s do the chords and the intro.
How to Play “If I Had A Hammer On” – Chords & Intro
When Peter, Paul, and Mary did it, two guitars played with a capo on the second fret in the key of G. The other played without a capo. The first chord is the G chord. The next chord is a D chord. After the D chord, we’ve got an Am chord and one more chord; we use the Em chord. We do that order two times while singing. The song has some pretty good speed, but you generally get the same chord progression throughout. Down, down, down, down, up, up, up, down, down. That’s the strumming pattern of the intro. A simplified way to do this would be just to play a G chord. Now, when we play it at the beginning of that chord, we hit those low notes. We don’t hit those low notes every time.
Start with the intro. We started with a G; we go to Em; we will go to an Am; then we go to D. That’s the same order chord progression through the entire song, nothing different than that except at the end of the song. The strumming pattern is as we mentioned above: down, down, down, down, up, up, up, down, down. Do that two times then we ran into the verse.
How to Play “If I Had a Hammer On” – Verse
We got four verses, and then at the end of the fourth verse, there’s a coda on it. Because that’s where we ended that intro progression with a G, with a start with a D chord. And we strum an Em chord. Then see this little space here; you’ll see that on the song, we strum a C chord in there. Go into the next verse, and we’ve got four verses; they all are the same, just different words, and progressions are the same. The only thing that is a little different is when we get to the song’s end. So, we have the last line of the last verse. We have that little part at the end; otherwise, other verses are pretty much the same.
Get something out of this lesson and take advantage of this great song and the practice opportunities in using this chord progression to build your speed. In this lesson, we demonstrated how to play “If I Had a Hammer” on the guitar. This easy guitar piece simply calls basic chords. You must also use a capo if you are going to play the song based on the original song. We hope you all learned to play “If I Had a Hammer” on the guitar from this article and enjoyed it.
You can learn many songs, like “If I Had a Hammer,” which you learned in this article, with the Deplike Learning App. Learning new songs is made easier with the Deplike Learning App. You can learn the chords using the active learning method. Just pick a song from the application, learn how to play it, and explore the artists! Using the Deplike Learning App, you can learn a lot of songs, including “If I Had a Hammer,” which you learned in this post. You can also read the Deplike Blog to discover interesting guitar-playing information.