Green Burial Music: "To My Old Brown Earth" by Pete Seeger

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“To My Old Brown Earth” is a lovely old Pete Seeger song that’s perfect to cue or sing at green burials. Seeger wrote it in 1958 upon playing the funeral for The National Guardian’s co-editor John McManus. Discouraged he hadn’t performed anything new, Seeger wandered home and wrote an original piece that captures the essence of earth-friendly burial and the act of naturally surrendering the body to the soil. Even at the end, the molecules of our bodies are useful. Death is a return, not an ending. We are all one. One life inspires the next. Here’s a gorgeous cover of the tune by the divine Pat Humphries, and in the week after Seeger’s death, music director Kevin Quigley arranged the melody for a chorus. Nice. The song is easy enough to learn and sing yourself at the grave with friends and family members.

TO MY OLD BROWN EARTH

To my old brown earth,
And to my old blue sky,
I'll now give these last few molecules of "I."
And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain.
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine
And this our home.
Keep pure and sweet and green
For now I'm yours
And you are also
Mine.

— Words and music by Pete Seeger


Amy Cunningham