Matt Baldwin – Passing Through

Event host & organizer as well as author of a Leonard Cohen biography, Sylvie Simmons, introduces solo guitarist Matt Baldwin who performs a classic progressive folk tune from the late 40’s. apparently “PASSING THROUGH” is the only published tune by a Chicago folk musician named Richard (Dick) Cleveland Blakeslee. Inspired to send it to the People’s Songs organization in New York, his home-cut acetate disc arrived at the offices of the loose knit non-profit predecessor to “Sing-Out’ whose members included Mo Asch, Anges “Sis” Cunningham, Tom Glazer, Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays. They regularly published a newsletter to share new folk songs for the progressive labor movement to shareand in turn, the tune was soon introduced via the newsletter to sympathetic subscribers around the same time as We Shall Overcome. Blakeslee’s song was recorded and popularized by Pete Seeger, and sung by him regularly throughout the  1948 Presidential election campaign when Seeger was backing Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace. Other renditions of the song have been recorded by The HighwaymenCisco HoustonEarl Scruggs, & on a 1970 live album by Leonard Cohen.

I saw jesus on the cross on a hill called calvary
“do you hate mankind for what they done to you? “
He said, “talk of love not hate, things to do – it’s getting late.
I’ve so little time and I’m only passing through.”Passing through, passing through.

Sometimes happy, sometimes blue,
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

I saw adam leave the garden with an apple in his hand,
I said “now you’re out, what are you going to do? “
“plant some crops and pray for rain, maybe raise a little cane.
I’m an orphan now, and I’m only passing through.”Passing through, passing through

…I was with Washington at valley ford, shivering in the snow.

I said, “how come the men here suffer like they do? “
“men will suffer, men will fight, even die for what is right
Even though they know they’re only passing through”Passing through, passing through

…I was with Franklin Roosevelt’s side on the night before he died.
He said, “one world must come out of world war two” (ah, the fool)
“yankee, russian, white or tan, ” he said, “a man is still a man.

We’re all on one road, and we’re only passing through.”Passing through, passing through …Passing through, passing through …

-Dick Blakeslee

This was recorded at a post-humous Cohen tribute and benefit for the San Francisco Community Music Center held at The Chapel at 777 Valencia St in San Francisco. The San Francisco Community Music Center ( is a non-profit school founded in 1921 with the mission of making music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial means. They offer classes for people of all ages, abilities and interests and financial aid to all who need it.

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