This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.
The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.
Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.
How sad that on the night of the final event of the year-long celebration of Woody Guthrie’s life and music, his son Arlo’s wife passed away two days after their 45th wedding anniversary. The morning after the concert, Arlo wrote the following about her passing:
The sun rose on my world this morning. Jackie stayed with us throughout the night, lingering in our hearts just out of sight but clearly present. She woke me before sunrise in a dream saying that the hour had come when she would need to leave us and be gone before the sun arose. As her words awakened me I walked outside and stood looking over the river talking with her in the predawn twilight we both loved so much. It was our time and for years she brought me coffee as I took photographs of morning on the river.
There are loves, and there are LOVES. Ours was and will continue to be what it has always been – A very great love. We didn’t always like each other. From time to time there were moments when we’d have our bags packed by the door. But, there was this great love that we shared from the moment we met – a recognition – It’s YOU! And we would always return to it year after year, decade after decade and I believe life after lifetime.
The audience at the concert–held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.–all wondered about Arlo’s absence, since he was in the program. One artist said, “We’re all singing Woody’s songs for Jackie today,” but she didn’t elaborate. Arlo writes that we all live for the moment we are in, and hence “we have no thought of past or future.” He will continue to tour and make up the gigs he missed. That is what he does, communicating through art and song, like his father and many of his own children.
My wife and I went to the concert last night, along with some friends. It was an all-star cast, and there were many memorable moments. The young folks who make up the popular Old Crow Medicine Show brought vigor and a rousing old-timey feeling to some of Woody’s best songs. Rosanne Cash and her husband and guitar accompanist John Leventhal sang beautifully. Jimmy LaFave, who sounds like a younger Bob Dylan, was superb, and the bluegrass group featuring Del McCoury and his family, playing with banjo master Tony Trischka, did “So Long It’s Been Good to Know You” bluegrass style. Trischka and the band scored with a banjo rendition of “Woody’s Rag,” the only instrumental composition Guthrie ever wrote.
Have you ever had “just one of those days”? If you’re old enough to be reading this, then of course you have unless you are a complete oddity of life.
I recently had one of those days, and it turned out to be one of the roughest twenty four hours I’ve survived. It started off with the fruit platter I was making to take to my parent’s house. I went to the store to buy various fruit. It was pretty uneventful until trying to pick the perfect watermelon. I had everything else I needed, the watermelon was the last thing on my list. I picked up a watermelon and thumped it. Hmmmm, questionable so I returned it to the watermelon pile and picked another. I performed the thump test again and determined that this was a ripe, sweet juicy watermelon, so I placed it into the grocery cart. As I walked away from the watermelon display, the watermelons started rolling. By the time I was able to stop them, three watermelons had already crashed to the floor splattering the fruit and its juice all over the floor and all over me. My legs and feet were covered in watermelon so I couldn’t even pretend that I knew nothing about the avalanche which had just occurred. Besides, just about everybody on that side of the store had stopped and turned to look with hopes of discovering from where the ear piercing scream had come. Ugh! Caught red-footed. As the announcement came over the loud speaker “massive clean up needed in produce”, I stood there apologizing to every employee who came over to take care of that “massive clean up.”
I was finally able to leave the produce department slipping only once, hoping that no one in the check out lines would recognize me as the “watermelon lady” while wearing my oversized sunglasses. Clever, huh? I loaded the groceries into the trunk of my car, loaded myself into the driver’s seat and headed home.
Once home, I unloaded the groceries and set about making my fruit platter. As I sliced the watermelon, I could envision how beautiful this platter was going to look. The watermelon slices as flower petals, cherries, cantaloupe and kiwi placed in the centers of those flower petals to create the illusion of various flowers. Sigh. My eyes were getting watery at this picture dancing in my head… Or was it because I had just sliced my finger nearly taking off the top. Blood was running everywhere, so I guess it was a good thing that I was cutting watermelon — it wouldn’t show. I wrapped up my finger and continued working while trying to decide if I had time to get the top of my finger reattached. I figured my finger could wait until the next day and if still bleeding, I would take care of it then, maybe a little super glue. I finished my fruit platter and although it resembled melted crayon blobs more than flowers, I was happy it was done.
The next morning I awoke knowing that it was going to be a great day. Naturally I hit my wounded finger on the first thing I walked past causing the bleeding to start again. Oh well, I needed to get going and get that oh-so-beautiful platter to my parent’s home. I put the fruit into the back of my SUV and hit the road. I cranked up the music as Bob Dylan, one of my favorite songwriters, voice came through the speakers. I continued along a street which I drive daily, but I’m really not sure when that curb which juts out into the road was added. Hitting that curb not only brought me out of my reverie, but broke a tire rim along with the tire, and caused the destruction of my beautiful fruit design. Okay, maybe that looked better.
Woody Guthrie would have been 100 years old this year, and celebrations and tribute concerts have been held not only in the United States but all through Europe. You can get the various details here.
But the New York Times ran the most left-wing, guilt-tripping contribution to his legacy in its Weekend section last Sunday. The piece, written by Lawrence Downes, begins by noting that to attend the gala final concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., one has to buy tickets that range from $80 to $175. Guthrie was a singer who in a good year may have earned $70 in one month — when he was employed by CBS to do a radio program — and such a price for people to listen to his songs would have infuriated him.
The publicity for the concert reads: “Through his unique music, words and style, Guthrie was able to bring attention and understanding to the critical issues of his day.” To which I would say, sometimes. He came to attention by what is most likely his most outstanding work,Dust Bowl Ballads, in which Guthrie chronicled the impact of the dust storms throughout the Southwest that drove thousands of poor farmers from Oklahoma and elsewhere to flee however they could to California and the Salinas Valley, where they could eke out a living picking crops.
No one who listens to these songs can doubt his talent, his humor, and his concern for those he knew well. “Talking’ Dust Bowl Blues” is filled with humor and irreverence, and although imitated by scores who wrote their own talking blues for years thereafter, nothing comes close to Woody’s originals.
But Mr. Downes’ concern is that there has been a “sentimental softening and warping of Woody’s reputation,” because the truth was that the “saintly folk hero” was really an “angry vigilante — a fascist-hating, Communist-sympathizing rabble-rouser.” He complains that his most well-known song, “This Land is Your Land,” has been “truncated and misinterpreted” because the “pan is off the flame.”
Mr. Downes is obviously referring to the last two verses, which Guthrie himself never sang — and which now both Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen regularly include — about how he saw a sign that said “Private property, no trespassing, but on the other side it said nothing, that side was made for you and me.”
Just don’t try to trespass on any of Bruce’s million-dollar properties — unless you want the police arriving and throwing you in the hoosegow, which Woody himself knew quite a lot about.