If I Had a Hammer

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"The Hammer Song"
Original 1950 release by The Weavers on Hootenanny Records, 101-A.
Single by The Weavers
B-side "Banks of Marble"
Released 1950
Format Vinyl single
Genre Folk music
Label Hootenanny Records
Writer(s) Pete Seeger
Lee Hays
"If I Had A Hammer"
Single by Peter, Paul and Mary
Single by Peter, Paul and Mary
from the album Peter, Paul and Mary
B-side "Gone The Rainbow"
Released 1962
Format Vinyl single
Genre Folk music
Length 2:11
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Pete Seeger
Lee Hays
Producer(s) Albert Grossman
Milt Okun
Peter, Paul and Mary singles chronology
"Lemon Tree"
(1962)
"If I Had A Hammer"
(1962)
"Puff, the Magic Dragon"
(1963)
"If I Had A Hammer"
Single by Trini Lopez
Single by Trini Lopez
from the album Trini Lopez at PJ's
B-side "Unchain My Heart"
Released 1963
Format Vinyl single
Genre Folk music
Pop music
Length 2:59
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Pete Seeger
Lee Hays
Producer(s) Don Costa
Trini Lopez singles chronology
"If I Had a Hammer"
(1963)
"Kansas City"
(1963)

"If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" is a song written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. It was written in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, and was first recorded by The Weavers, a folk music quartet composed of Seeger, Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman. It was a number 10 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962 and then went to number three a year later when recorded by Trini Lopez.

The Weavers released the song under the title "The Hammer Song" as a 78 single in March 1950 on Hootenanny Records, 101-A, backed with "Banks of Marble".

Early versions[edit]

The song was first performed publicly by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays on June 3, 1949, at St. Nicholas Arena in New York at a testimonial dinner for the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States, who were then on trial in federal court, charged with violating the Smith Act by advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.[1] It was not particularly successful in commercial terms when it was first released.

Hit versions[edit]

It fared notably better in commercial terms when it was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary a dozen years later. Their cover of the song, released in August 1962, became a Top 10 hit. Trini Lopez's 1963 single went to number three on the same Billboard chart. It was included on his album, Trini Lopez at PJ's (Reprise R/RS 6093).[2]

Foreign language versions[edit]

Language Title Artist
Italian "Datemi un martello"[3] Rita Pavone
French "Si j'avais un marteau"[3] Claude François, Les Surfs
Bulgarian "Ako imah chuk"[3][4] Lili Ivanova
Spanish "El martillo" Victor Jara
Czech "Kladivo"[3] Waldemar Matuška
Arabic "Law endi shekoush" Mayada

Other versions[edit]

  • Johnny Cash released the song on his album Any Old Wind That Blows in 1972. Also released as a single, the song hit number 29 on the US country chart.
  • Sam Cooke recorded it on his 1964 live album Sam Cooke at the Copa and RCA Victor released it as a 45 single, 47-8934, in September, 1966.
  • Aretha Franklin recorded the song on her Yeah! album.
  • Wanda Jackson released the song as a single in 1969. It was included on her album The Many Moods of Wanda Jackson. It reached number 41 on the US country chart.
  • Martha and the Vandellas in 1963 on the Motown Records album Heatwave and a live recording in 1965 in Paris on the Motortown Revue in Paris collection.
  • Peter, Paul and Mary released the song as a single in 1962, reaching #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • The Limeliters[5]
  • Bobby Rydell's version of "If I Had a Hammer" from the 1964 Cameo album The Top Hits of 1963 Sung By Bobby Rydell. This is a cover of the Trini Lopez version.
  • Nicky Thomas as a Trojan Records 45 single in 1970.
  • Lorraine Ellison as a Warner Bros. 45 single, 5895.
  • Lane Relations as a 45 single on Arctic 124.
  • The Kidsongs Kids covered the song in 1986 on their Kidsongs video "Sing Out, America!".
  • Willie Hightower on the Capitol Records album If I Had A Hammer, ST 367.
  • Luther Vandross on the 2007 album Every Child Deserves a Lifetime.
  • Rob De Nijs and The Lords, 1963 Fontana EP.
  • Arlo Guthrie at the 1994 Kennedy Center Honors.
  • John Mellencamp in 2009 at Madison Square Garden.
  • German pianist and bandleader Horst Jankowski in 1977.
  • German trumpeter James Last in a medley with "America" and "Lucky Lips" from the album Hammond A Go Go, Vol. 1.
  • The Soul Stirrers in a gospel version.
  • Doc Severinsen in an arrangement for trumpet and orchestra.
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Leonard Nimoy on the 1968 album The Way I Feel.
  • Nanci Griffith
  • The Seekers
  • The Brothers Four
  • Percy Faith
  • Enoch Light
  • Betty Willis in 1965 in a recording produced and arranged by Leon Russell released as a Phil-Dan 45 single.
  • Blind Boys of Alabama
  • AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson on the 2010 various artists compilation CD Love & Peace: Greatest Hits for Kids on Rhino.
  • "World Famous" Coasters in 1976 as a 45 single on American International Artists, AIA 1122.
  • Victor Jara on the 1969 album Pongo en tus Manos Abiertas, translated to Spanish as "El Martillo".
  • Richard Barone and Al Jardine recorded a version for the ONE Campaign in June 2013
  • Claude François translated the song to French as Si j'avais un marteau in 1963.
  • Fandango released Spanish language version "Dame Aquel Martillo" in 1990 for their album "Volver A Ser Feliz"

Legacy[edit]

The song "If I Had a Hammer" was a Freedom Song of the American Civil Rights movement.

Wikileaks chose the song as its "Wikileaks song".[6]

References[edit]

External links[edit]