Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"This machine kills Fascists!"

"This machine kills Fascists" is what Woody Guthrie painted or carved or hung on the front of his guitar. It wasn't that he thought his guitar playing did this, or his singing, or his songs...his opinion was getting people together to sing together was where the power was...together. I used "Together" that many times in one sentence on purpose all you proof-readers out there.
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie would have been 97 years old today, nd if he were still here, he'd be just as full of contempt for peoples unjust treatment of others as always...and willing to write and sing about it. He said everything he learned was from hobos and children, children first. He sang political songs, sure. But he also sang barn dance songs, happy songs, travelin' songs, story songs, children's songs...on and on...all with he hoped you'd sing along with him.

There would be a lot to write about Woody, his history, his mother's battle with mental illness, his own battle with a neurological disorder, his marriage, his kids, his time in the service, his time in the Oklahoma oil fields. But the real story is how he knew music was the important thing he could bring to the world. Music was what he could do that was worth doing. If you want to read more about him, I think you should. But this is about music. Sing, dang ya! If something moves you, sing about it! If possible, sing with a bunch of friends, but even if you're alone, sing! That's what Woody taught us.

Woody on the far left. Fitting.

Woody's cartoon about his first trip to California (above) and my favorite Woody dustbowl ballad/trekking to California song of his (below).

Woody lolly-gagging in the lower right. Showing his boredom with show business.

Woody says, "Take it easy...but take it!".

Big time publicity photo. Woody and Burl Ives tramping it up in Central Park.

The original words to "This Land is Your Land" originally titled "God Blessed America".

Woody in the service, WWII.

Woody in the service of a bigger war.

Woody's cartoon of him singing. Maybe "So Long It's Been Good to Know You"?

Here's a song by Steve Earle called "Christmas in Washington". It was written during Bill Clinton's second election to President. This bootleg concert footage was shot after George W.'s second. It's worth listening to even with no clear picture. It's not about Christmas and it's not about Washington. It's about heroes. It's about Woody. Enjoy.

It was Christmas time in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin' in to gear for four more years
Of things not getting worse
Republicans drank whiskey neat
And thank their lucky stars
They said, "He cannot seek another term,
"There'll be no more FDR's"
And I sat home in Tennessee
Just staring at the screen
An uneasy feeling in my chest
Wonderin' what it means

So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from Paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help us out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now

I followed in your footsteps once
Back in my younger days
Somewhere I failed to find your trail
Now I'm stumblin' through this haze
But there's killers on the highway now
And a man can't get around
So I sold my soul for wheels that roll
Now I'm stuck here in this town

There's foxes in the henhouse
Cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn
If you listen to the radio
You'd think that all was well
But you and me and Cisco know
It's goin' straight to hell
Come back Emma Goldman
Rise up Old Joe Hill
The Barricades are going up
And they cannot break our will
Come back to us Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We're marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring

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