We’ve been travelin’ all over this land
From the flat land country to the mountains grand,
From the humdrum of the city to the wildness of the sea.
O blessed land where we all are free.
We hear folks singing with all their might;
We hear them singing of freedom’s fight:
The worth of human life and the lives that have been lost-
The price of freedom, high is the cost.
We’ve been travelin’;
We’ve been praying
That by God’s grace,
We may remain forever free.
About this Song:
Today is July 4, the birthday of the USA and of Winn’s Baptist Church (Glen Allen, VA), and that seems like a good time to reach WAY back in my notebook of songs and pull out the first song I ever wrote. It’s also my only patriotic song.
The words speak for themselves, but let me share a little background.
I wrote this song–probably in 1963 as a high school junior. I had started playing guitar less than a year before, and I was playing around with the chords to “Greensleeves.” In the key of Em, most people would play a progression of Em-D-C-B7. But I switched the sequence to Em-D-B7-C, and that–as Robert Frost has said–made all the difference.
I don’t recall anything about the process of writing the words.
At that time, I belonged to a folk trio of guys from church. The Flatlanders (appropriate for people living in Norfolk, VA) consisted of Will Robertson, Bobby Hetherington, and–of course–me. We all played guitar and sang and just generally enjoyed ourselves. I’m sure I was a little shy about sharing my song with them, but they loved it and chose to use it as our theme song. No telling how many times we sang that.
Once I graduated from high school and moved to western Maryland–far away from the Flatlanders–I was forced into becoming a soloist. “We’ve Been Travelin’” didn’t quite fit with “I,” so I ignored it for a number of years.
Then around 1971 I wrote a musical drama called Escape Velocity. “We’ve Been Travelin’” fit in perfectly–but not with the folk sound it had during the 1960s. So I changed it to a major key and turned it from 4/4 time to 6/8. Those changes affected the melody, of course.
Today I sang the original version at my church’s weekly nursing home ministry–the first time I’d done it publicly since Flatlander days. I’ve added a recording of today’s performance to the Read/Listen page of my website. Go down to the box of original songs and look in the first dropdown box.
Come back this weekend for more lyrics.