Monday, 3 October 2016

Remembering Woody Guthrie (14/7/12 – 3/10/67) - I've got to know


Today marks the  49th anniversary of the death of legendary left-winger, songwriter, poet of the people and musician Woody Guthrie.He died at the age of 55 from complications due to Huntington’s disease. I have written previously about him here, since his voice continues to endure to me because he celebrated the little guy, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. Guthrie who overcame personal hardship and tragedy to become a spokesman for those Americans affected by the Great Depression and the dust storms. and sung out to sufferers of the Depression, the Dust Bowl era, and the second World War. He advocated the unions and scorned the corporations. But the formulas for writing the “people’s songs” didn’t rest in social justice alone; Guthrie’s wit, humor and home-spun vernacular attracted too and avoided pretension.
The radicalism he brought into his songs was seldom forced; it was organically and seamlessly connected with a kind of humanistic appreciation of working people’s everyday struggles. He was, in his own words, “out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.” songs that were made for you and me. Although he was unblinking in the face of suffering and injustice, he had a persistent streak of optimism. He seemed really to believe that music could change the world for the better, confidently writing on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists.” He was a radical, a revolutionary who believed if imperialists raised their ugly heads, it was time to battle them in bloody struggles. To the Fascists, he sent the ultimate warning:

“I’ll bomb their towns and bomb their cities
Sink their ships beneath the tides,
I’ll win this war, but till I do, babe,
I could not be satisfied.”

Guthrie’s ‘machine’ indeed ‘killed Fascists’. And he appealed to human reasoning through radical folk renditions that founded the landscape of protest music worldwide. And he never faltered from why he needed to sing what he did.mFrom his first song, “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya” which he wrote about a huge dust storm while living in Pampa, Texas, Woody Guthrie chronicled the changing world that he saw.
He could describe the deprivations of migrant workers but still insist that “pastures of plenty must always be free.”his songs touch on issues ranging from immigration (“Deportee”) to corrupt financial institutions (“The Jolly Banker”) to the plight of the working class (“Union Maid”) — age-old problems that continue to dominate the modern news. He re-wrote some of his songs, lambasting the racist developer/landlord, Fred Trump, father of the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. A developer who made a fortune, not only through the construction of "public" housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them. Woody used his songs and other creative works as social commentary, promoting social justice issues such as treating all people fairly no matter what color or economic status, political belief or place of origin because his voice continues to endure to me because he celebrated the little guy, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. Guthrie who overcame personal hardship and tragedy to become a spokesman for those Americans affected by the Great Depression and the dust storms. and sung out to sufferers of the Depression, the Dust Bowl era, and the second World War. He advocated the unions and scorned the corporations. But the formulas for writing the “people’s songs” didn’t rest in social justice alone; Guthrie’s wit, humor and home-spun vernacular attracted too and avoided pretension.
The radicalism he brought into his songs was seldom forced; it was organically and seamlessly connected with a kind of humanistic appreciation of working people’s everyday struggles. He was, in his own words, “out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.” songs that were made for you and me. Although he was unblinking in the face of suffering and injustice, he had a persistent streak of optimism. He seemed really to believe that music could change the world for the better, confidently writing on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists.” He was a radical, a revolutionary who believed if imperialists raised their ugly heads, it was time to battle them in bloody struggles. To the Fascists, he sent the ultimate warning:

“I’ll bomb their towns and bomb their cities
Sink their ships beneath the tides,
I’ll win this war, but till I do, babe,
I could not be satisfied.”

Guthrie’s ‘machine’ indeed ‘killed Fascists’. And he appealed to human reasoning through radical folk renditions that founded the landscape of protest music worldwide. And he never faltered from why he needed to sing what he did.

Woody Guthrie - Tear the fascists down.
 

Woody Guthrie - All you fascists Bound to lose. 

From his first song, “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya” which he wrote about a huge dust storm while living in Pampa, Texas, Woody Guthrie chronicled the changing world that he saw.
He could describe the deprivations of migrant workers but still insist that “pastures of plenty must always be free.”his songs touch on issues ranging from immigration (“Deportee”) to corrupt financial institutions (“The Jolly Banker”) to the plight of the working class (“Union Maid”) — age-old problems that continue to dominate the modern news. He re-wrote some of his songs, lambasting the racist developer/landlord, Fred Trump, father of the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. A developer who made a fortune, not only through the construction of "public" housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them. Woody used his songs and other creative works as social commentary, promoting social justice issues such as treating all people fairly no matter what color or economic status, political belief or place of origin
Many of the things he concerns himself with in song in the late 1930s are still with us today and though its disconcerting to know we haven’t solved those things, at the same time it’s reassuring that Guthrie’s music is still there to shed light on these issues. During hard times, people who are struggling to find a emotional accessible moral philosophy that can give hope can still find it in the words of this poet of the people Woody Guthrie. He taught us that an artist must not be confined to the world of imagination alone. The battlefield is an unequal world and the war against injustice is absolutely on. Until that war is won, the artist must not be satisfied!
Thank you Woody Guthrie, a folk revolutionary who continues to inspire and strike a chord or two..


I've got to know - Woody Guthrie

I've got to know, yes, I've got to know, friend;
Hungry lips ask me wherever I go!
Comrades and friends all falling around me
I've got to know, yes, I've got to know.

Why do your war boats ride on my waters?
Why do your death bombs fall from my skies?
Why do you burn my farm and my town down?
I've got to know, friend, I've got to know! 

What makes your boats haul death to my people?
Nitro blockbusters, big cannons and guns?
Why doesn't your ship bring food and some clothing?
I've sure got to know, folks, I've sure got to know! 

Why can't my two hands get a good pay job?
I can still plow, plant, I can still sow!
Why did your lawbook chase me off my good land?
I'd sure like to know, friend, I've just got to know! 

What good work did you do, sir, I'd like to ask you,
To give you my money right out of my hands?
I built your big house here to hide from my people,
Why you crave to hide so, I'd love to know! 

You keep me in jail and you lock me in prison,
Your hospital's jammed and your crazyhouse full,
What made your cop kill my trade union worker?
You'll hafta talk plain 'cause I sure have to know! 

Why can't I get work and cash my big paycheck?
Why can't I buy things in your place and your store?
Why do you close my plant down and starve all my buddies?
I'm asking you, sir, 'cause I've sure got to know!

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