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Being Woody Guthrie

by : Daveparts
Sunday March 1, 2009 - 00:52
2 comments
JPEG - 8.2 kb

By David Glenn Cox
http://theservantsofpilate.com

Today we have so many celebrities who take on social causes; it is almost a given that they will each have some charity or cause that they support. That is good, I suppose, but still there is a clear distinction between being socially conscious and being Woody Guthrie.

Woody has been dead almost half a century, and his deeds and exploits have fallen from public memory. Woody wasn’t socially conscious, he was its conscience. In the dark days of depression-era homelessness and migrant camps, Woody sang, “So long, it’s been good to know ya, this dusty old dust is getting my home.” He sang, “It’s a hot dusty road that a million feet have trod. Rich man took my house and he drove me from my door. And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.”

He left his wife and family, like millions of other men during the depression, seeking work. When he was given his own radio show in Los Angeles, he sent for his wife and children. Guthrie played the same songs that he had played in the migrant camps, and dedicated songs to those who didn’t have enough to eat that night. Sponsors wanted only hillbilly music, but what they got was pure Woody. Management demanded Guthrie supply them in advance with a list of the songs he intended to sing, and then he didn’t play any of them.

Coming to California on foot, Woody knew that being called an Okie wasn’t a term of endearment; he was an outsider and always would be an outsider. He wasn’t just a little man who wrote songs for the oppressed. He was the oppressed, and he wrote songs for the little people who were oppressed everywhere. He walked out on good jobs because he wouldn’t be muzzled or censored. If you wanted Woody you got Woody, all of him, not just the polite parts.

In the days of strict segregation, Woody played with Lead Belly, Sonny Terry , Brownie McGhee and Josh White. Those things just weren’t done by white performers in polite society, but Woody didn’t give a damn about polite society. Once while working on a troop ship, Woody was playing for the troops when he heard voices from the front hold, and he asked, “Why aren’t we playing down there?”

“Well, those are colored troops, and there might be trouble,” it was explained.

Woody asked, “Why? Don’t they like music?”

Woody played and there was no trouble, but at a war bond rally in Baltimore they weren’t so lucky. Woody, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry played for the crowd. Woody was seated for supper at the head table while Sonny and Brownie were offered a plate in the kitchen. Enraged, Woody flipped the table over saying, “If we’re going to fight fascism, let’s start right here!” That was Woody, and that was Woody’s last war bond rally.

In 1938 Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” and Kate Smith had a hit record with it. But to Woody, the song had it all wrong. It was plastic and superficial, a blind patriotic ballad without any soul searching or reckoning of the things that needed correction in this country. So Woody sat down to write a song about what being an American meant to him.

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND
 
Chorus: This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
 
As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me
 
Chorus
 
I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me
 
Chorus
 
The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me
 
Chorus
 
As I was walkin’ - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin’
But on the other side .... it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
 
Chorus
 
In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.

If this song had been written by anyone besides Woody Guthrie, it would just be a catchy tune. But it was written by a man who was beaten and had his guitar busted over his head for advocating labor rights. A man who slept on the hard ground when he didn’t have so much as a coin in his pocket. A man who watched his friend murdered by railroad detectives for hopping a freight train. A man that flipped over the banquet tables of big shots when he saw injustice. And through all of this, this man with barely a fourth grade education still loved this country.

Unlike Irving Berlin, he wasn’t satisfied with America; being wealthy didn’t make it all right. Woody once said, “I never met a poor man that wouldn’t share what he had, and I never met a rich man who wasn’t afraid somebody was gonna take something from him.” And that hasn’t changed. Too many of us walk through this life afraid to throw the tables over.

This is your land, Woody meant that. He wouldn’t be satisfied that we pay more than any country in the world for health care, and almost forty percent of us don’t have access to it.

This is your land, Woody meant that. He fought for unions so that families could stay together and earn a decent living. Because this is your land, you are not a guest or a visitor nor are you a long-lost relative, you are the owner here. And if you’re not being treated as such, flip over the table and find out why.

This is your land, Woody meant that. He advocated for peace and spoke against war at every opportunity and with every fiber in his being. He would not have quietly accepted two wars against third world peasants with hi-tech, uranium-tipped tank shells and guided missiles.

You don’t need to wonder what Woody would think about today’s troubles. His legacy is so clear and his mind was so open you don’t need to wonder what Woody would think about gay marriage or outsourcing. John Steinbeck said, “Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people don’t know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who still listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.”

Woody never goes out of style and will never go out of style; he is for you and for your family. He is for the worker and the unemployed, the disliked and mistrusted. He is a man of God but he isn’t religious. He is tenacious, unbending, resolved, untiring and committed to a better life for the American people, not because we need help or can’t do for ourselves, but because this is our land and not an investment property for special interests groups.

"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young, or too fat or too slim, too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think you’ve not any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow." —Woody Guthrie



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Being Woody Guthrie
Wednesday March 18 - 07:38 - Posted by 392fe6b2a5b5aaab...

This is a great article. Nice to hear that Woody wasn’t so angry at this country to hate it.

I’m sure we’ve all felt doubts from time to time. And some of us may have acted on our distrust of the establishment, though I doubt we’ll tip over tables. More likely we are to write and/or complain, while not really contesting the fundamental unfairness of our system. We chop away at the branches, instead of the root, to use Thoreau’s quote.

Bottom line is that Guthrie wasn’t afraid. Not of what his actions would do, nor what hardship and deprivations he’d have to endure. This is what made him a hero—not doing some job, but rather volunteering himself, serving his better man, like the good Samaritan. We can all admire the power of his convictions. He earned his folk hero status.




Being Woody Guthrie
Saturday May 2 - 05:35 - Posted by 0685a15a6eb72e17...

He Was a Friend of Mine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For articles with similar titles, see Friend of Mine (disambiguation).
He Was a Friend of Mine is a traditional folk song in which the singer laments the death of a friend.

It has been recorded by Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Dave Van Ronk, Bobby Bare, Mercury Rev, The Mitchell Trio, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith and Cat Power. The version recorded by Willie Nelson was used in the film Brokeback Mountain and is credited to Dylan, who arranged an early version of the tune in 1962 (available on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991). [1]

Bobby Bare recorded the song in 1964 in memory of air crash victim Jim Reeves. That same year, Petula Clark released a French version of the song under the title "Toi qui m’as fait pleurer", with a Bobby Bare credit as writer.

In the Byrds’ version, John F. Kennedy was the friend whose death was lamented. The melody is changed considerably and Roger McGuinn takes a songwriter’s credit.

The Grateful Dead is commonly listed as performing this song from 1966 through 1969. While listed in setlists as "He Was A Friend Of Mine", they actually played a portion of "Just A Hand To Hold", written by Mark Spoelstra.

Dave Van Ronk sang the song at the memorial concert for Phil Ochs in New York City’s Madison Square Garden Felt Forum in May 1976, after Ochs’ suicide.

The song was featured in an episode of the reality television series Jacob and Joshua: Nemesis Rising when the openly gay pop duo Nemesis recorded it for the album Rise Up. This version was produced by Barry Manilow and released June 26, 2007.

The earliest known version of this song was under the title "Shorty George" (Roud 10055)[2]

The English band The Bishops covered it on their 2009 album "For now".

The Canadian band The Imaginaries covered it on their 2008 album "Another Side Of The Imaginaries". The title of the album is also a reference to the 1964 Bob Dylan album.

He Was A Friend Of Mine
He was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
Every time I think about him now
Lord I just can’t keep from cryin’
’Cause he was a friend of mine

He died on the road
He died on the road
He never had enough money
To pay his room or board
And he was a friend of mine

I stole away and cried
I stole away and cried
’Cause I never had too much money
And I never been quite satisfied
And he was a friend of mine

He never done no wrong
He never done no wrong
A thousand miles from home
And he never harmed no one
And he was a friend of mine

He was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
Every time I hear his name
Lord I just can’t keep from cryin’
’Cause he was a friend of mine.

Copyright ©1962; renewed 1990 MCA







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