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Seeger found inspiration for the song in October 1955 while he was on a plane bound for a concert at Oberlin College , one of the few venues which would hire him during the McCarthy era . [5] Leafing through his notebook he saw the passage, "Where are the flowers, the girls have plucked them. Where are the girls, they've all taken husbands. Where are the men, they're all in the army." [6] These lines were taken from the traditional Cossack folk song "Koloda-Duda", referenced in the Mikhail Sholokhov novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1934), which Seeger had read "at least a year or two before". [3]

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" is a modern folk-style song. The melody and the first three verses were written by Pete Seeger in 1955 and published in Sing Out ...

Dylan originally wrote and performed a two-verse version of the song; its first public performance, at Gerde's Folk City on April 16, 1962, was recorded and circulated among Dylan collectors. Shortly after this performance, he added the middle verse to the song. Some published versions of the lyrics reverse the order of the second and third verses, apparently because Dylan simply appended the middle verse to his original manuscript, rather than writing out a new copy with the verses in proper order. [3] The song was published for the first time in May 1962, in the sixth issue of Broadside , the magazine founded by Pete Seeger and devoted to topical songs. [4] The theme may have been taken from a passage in Woody Guthrie 's autobiography, Bound for Glory , in which Guthrie compared his political sensibility to newspapers blowing in the winds of New York City streets and alleys. Dylan was certainly familiar with Guthrie's work; his reading of it had been a major turning point in his intellectual and political development. [5]

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