My life goes in endless song
Above earth's lamentation
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
What through the tempest loudly roars
I hear the truth, it liveth
What through the darkness round me close
Songs in the night it giveth
When tyrants tremble, sick with fear
And hear their death-knell ringing
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? is a Christian hymm; see the traditional version for more details. Bruce Springsteen recorded the song with The Seeger Sessions Band on 21 Jan 2006, during the last of the three Seeger Sessions (see the "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" section below for more details). He released it as a bonus track on his 2006 cover album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
The above lyrics are for Bruce Springsteen's studio version of HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? as released on We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
Biographer Dave Marsh interviewed Bruce Springsteen on 20 Apr 2006 at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ, during Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band's preparation for that night's first public rehearsal for the upcoming tour. The interview aired three days later on Marsh's own radio show, Kick Out The Jams. In that interview, Springsteen said that "[Patti Scialfa] just did a beautiful job. So it was exciting, because when you can get a lot of people singing together, that choral sound of human voices is always something. It always ends up very personal, very human."
Pete Seeger, who inspired Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album, helped to make HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? fairly well known in the folk revival of the sixties. He learned a version of it from Doris Plenn, a family friend, who had it from her North Carolina family. Seeger's version omits or modifies much of the Christian wording of the traditional version, and adds a verse ("When tyrants tremble, sick with fear...") that Plenn contributed around 1950. Bruce Springsteen also used that new verse in his version, as did most artists who covered the song.
Pete Seeger recorded HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? for his 1996 album Pete (Living Music Records, catalogue # LMUS 0032).
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is Bruce Springsteen's fourteenth studio album, released in 2006. It is his first and so far only album of cover material, and his second consecutive non-E Street Band and non-rock music project. 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. On 29 Oct 1997, activist attorney and Appleseed founder Jim Musselman sent Springsteen a tape containing 14 Pete Seeger songs: JESSE JAMES, MY OKLAHOMA HOME, WE SHALL OVERCOME, HOBO'S LULLABY, I COME AND STAND AT EVERY DOOR, JOHN HENRY, MRS. MCGRATH, IF I HAD A HAMMER, ROUTE 66 HIGHWAY BLUES, TALKING UNION, TIMES ARE GETTING HARD, WAIST DEEP IN THE BIG MUDDY, WALKING DOWN DEATH ROW, and WORDS WORDS WORDS.
Springsteen had heard about a New York City roots/bluegrass band called The Gotham Playboys via future E Street Band violinist Soozie Tyrell who occasionally played live gigs with them. The band included Jeremy Chatzky, Sam Bardfeld, Larry Eagle, Will Holshouser, and Red Suydam. On 23 Sep 1997, Springsteen organized a private birthday party at his residence in Colts Neck, NJ, and hired The Gotham Playboys for the event. He allegedly joined in on some songs during the party. The band would later be invited to perform at two more birthday bashes at Springsteen's house, on 11 Oct 1998 and 14 Oct 2000.
When time came to record the Pete Seeger track, Springsteen decided to hire four members of The Gotham Playboys: Jeremy Chatzky, Sam Bardfeld, Larry Eagle, and Will Holshouser. Charles Giordano, an associate of The Gotham Playboys, substituted for Holshouser when a scheduling conflict prevented him from attending the recording sessions. This group, in addition to other friends and acquaintances, would eventually become "The Seeger Sessions Band", later renamed "The Sessions Band". Giordano would also join the E Street band in 2008.
The album was recorded over the course of nine years at Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ: a one-day session on 02 Nov 1997, a one-day session on 19 Mar 2005, and a one-day session on 14 Jan 2006. 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." Six songs were recorded during the first session (02 Nov 1997): JESSE JAMES, MY OKLAHOMA HOME, WE SHALL OVERCOME (eventually selected for the Pete Seeger tribute album), HOBO'S LULLABY, I COME AND STAND AT EVERY DOOR, and PRETTY BY FLOYD.
Seven years later, 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.
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 (19 Mar 2005): 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.
Springsteen undertook a third and final studio session on 21 Jan 2006 following the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. There were eight songs recorded during the third session (21 Jan 2006): 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, and WORRIED MAN BLUES.
For the first recording session, recording engineer Toby Scott and Springsteen's assistant Kevin Buell set up a video camera on a tripod to document the occasion. For the second and third recording sessions, Thom Zimny brought down a camera crew. Footage from the last two sessions was included as DVD bonus material with some editions of the 2006 album.
Springsteen toured with The Seeger Sessions Band throughout 2006. During a break in the tour in mid-2006, and then in late 2006 shortly after the tour's conclusion, he recorded several other songs. Some of these later session details are now known and others may emerge over time. A new vocal track was recorded for BRING 'EM HOME on 18 May 2006 at Disclab Studios in Oslo, Norway. A second version of AMERICAN LAND, with Springsteen solo, was recorded at his home studio sometime in 2006.
The album was recorded with a large ensemble of musicians, and more were added for The Seeger Session Tour.
The album was critically acclaimed. When asked about what he thought of it, Pete Seeger said, "It was a great honor. He's an extraordinary person, as well as an extraordinary singer." The album won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 49th Grammy Awards held in February 2007.
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions was produced by Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau and was released on Columbia Records on 25 Apr 2006. The album was issued in DualDisc format in the United States and Europe and a two-disc set (audio CD + DVD) in Europe and Japan. The CD (or CD side) contains the full album, while the DVD (or DVD side) features the entire album and two bonus tracks in PCM Stereo, in addition to a 30-minute film about the recording of the album. A 2-disc vinyl LP edition was also pressed in the U.S. and Holland.
On 03 Oct 2006, when the tour had just hit Europe for the second swing, the album was reissued as We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - American Land Edition. This time it was only issued as a two-disc set (separate CD and DVD). The CD contains the same 13 tracks found on the initial release in addition to five more, including the bonus tracks from the initial release's DVD (or DVD side). The DVD contains a 40-minute extended version of the original film plus new videos for four songs. The album booklet's liner notes were also expanded.
Disc 1 (CD or CD side):
Disc 2 (DVD or DVD side):
Disc 1 (CD):
Disc 2 (DVD):
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? was performed twice during The Seeger Sessions Tour (56 dates, April to November 2006); the two shows in England in May.
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? was performed off-tour on 09 May 2006 at LSO St Luke's in London, England, during a special concert for BBC Radio 2's "Sold On Song".
List of available versions of HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? on this website:HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? [Album version]