“This machine kills fascists.” ― Woody Guthrie
Since the end of the Cold War, many a suspicion has been confirmed of how devious Communist operatives worked their way into our national institutions. After the fall of the USSR, for a brief time, Russian authorities were fairly forthcoming in their release of documents and secrets: Academia, Hollywood, the State Department, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs. Among these (not generally known to most) was Sean Penn’s Blacklisted father, a Hollywood writer, which explains a great deal about his angry Liberal act, doesn’t it? Truly, the acorn fell very close to the tree indeed.
Consider Folk music.
Folk renders down to two distinct themes – “a song all about the plight of the common man,” and, “a song about how we’re all outraged, and we’ll fix all of the problems facing the common man – or else!” The former may be considered authentic, simply a chronicle of good times and bad times, a lament, if you will. The latter is a vehicle for social unrest, public dissension, rabble-rousing. Chanting crowds, with flaming torches and sharpened pitchforks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
Knowing this is why Communists latched on to the art form so eagerly.
So let’s look at the sordid affair of Pete Seeger and the Folk music act “The Weavers.”
You may remember the Weavers from their 1951 song, “Wimoweh” (a later major hit by the Doo-Wop group, “The Tokens,” reprised as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”):
Pretty tame 1950s fare, isn’t it? Well, understand the message behind the song: it’s all about Shaka Zulu, the Lion, he who fights against the forces of the white Imperialists. He sleeps yet, to someday awaken to righteously destroy the Colonizers, woe be unto them. A definite “Progressive” message embedded there.
“Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy thought there was something awfully fishy about this band and their shady past associations, so he called in the two leads, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, to make a deposition before the 1955 hearings held under the auspices of HUAC – the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” The Senator from Wisconsin wanted answers, and by God he was going to find out.
Each, in their own way, threw this back in the face of McCarthy. In the case of Hays, he simply refused to acknowledge anything, citing First Amendment rights; Seeger did answer, but prevaricated. Despite this, he broadly declared where his allegiances lay. This was exactly the kind of thing he had been deposed about – Seeger’s associations with Communist groups had been known going back to the 1930s.
Seeger’s deep Communist roots and his influence are mentioned in Richard A. Reuss’s 2000 book, American Folk Music and Left Wing Politics, 1927 – 1957:
“David Noebel, once a young minister in Billy Hames Hargis’s Christian Crusade, observed in a similar vein, The Communist infiltration into the subversion of American Music has been nothing short of phenomenal and in some areas, e.g. Folk music, their control is fast approaching the saturation point under the able leadership of Pete Seeger, SingOut!, Folkways Records, and Oak Publications Inc.’”
The “able leadership of Pete Seeger?” In other words, he was a known, active Communist subversive, dedicated to utilizing his status in the Folk music world to spread propaganda and affect the minds and opinions of Americans.
Seeger’s refusal to honestly testify ended with his indictment for Contempt of Congress. In March of 1961, he was convicted and sentenced to jail time, although his conviction was overturned on appeal.
As to the Weavers: ultimately, in 1962, and having been dogged by their known associations, they had been scheduled to be guests on the Jack Paar Show on NBC. At the last minute, the network required the band to sign a statement indicating their non-Communism. The entire band refused. End of appearance. The act broke up shortly thereafter.
Seeger continued on as the “Folkie Emeritus” of the genre until his death earlier this year, having inspired entire generations of Folk musicians to follow. Dylan, Baez, Mitchell, et al., and all their successors, who proselytize us to this day.
So the next time Billy Bob is singing folk to you about the plight of someone, be very cautious. He may well be plucking at your heart-strings, working you up to overthrow your leaders, and install a pack of Socialists in charge. For your own good, Comrade!
Kinda like today…
Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-second in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
- David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
- Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
- Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
- Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
- Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
- Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
- Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
- Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
- Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
- Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
- Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
- Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
- Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
- David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
- Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion…
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned
image illustration via Wikipedia
As last week’s epically embarrassing “James Taylor” fiasco demonstrated, the Western establishment acts like the Sixties never ended.
All that “peace and love,” “soixant-huitard” stuff comprised but a slender slice of the 1960s, and much of that was bogus, a cynical scam that ruined millions of lives.
“OK,” some of you have said in the comments, “but at least that decade had a hell of a soundtrack!”
Yeah, about that…
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
In his 1970s prime, Cat Stevens looked like Russell Brand just thinks he does.
Neither fellow is quite forlorn or angular enough to be my type, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the former, if definitely not the latter. (Ugh.)
As Dennis Miller still likes to muse sometimes on his radio show:
Can you imagine how many women were throwing themselves at Stevens back in the day?
(Except not in those words.)
Stevens has been Miller’s bete noir for a while now.
And former folk singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, came out this week and said he advocated the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So much for that “Peace Train” crap, huh, Cat? … Yeah, I could see this comin’ years ago on his old album, Tea for the Killerman. You, uh, you remember the big hit:
I’m being followed by a big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
How can I try to explain
When he do I turn away again
But it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me now
There’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world!
You’ve seen Thriller and heard all about Madonna, but what do you really know about the decade that ushered in the millennial generation? Think the era of scrunchies, boom boxes, pump sneakers and DeLoreans was just a fad? Think again. Some of the 1990s’ greatest pop culture trends were birthed in the millieu of Reaganomics, cable television, and a music video-loaded MTV.
15. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”
The ’80s was the decade of John Waters, the B-52s and all things camp coming to fruition. Decked out in eyeliner, lipstick and braids, Boy George popularized the aesthetic of this gay subculture with a poppy little tune about conflicted relationships. As for the music video, where better to set a gay guy’s love song in the ’80s than an 1870s riverboat called the “Chameleon” where a cheating gambler’s karma comes back to haunt him? Dude, it’s the ’80s: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” started here.
In his review of Inside Llewyn Davis, Andrew Klavan asks, “What did I miss?” It is a question I fear many in my generation will be asking as they approach the new Coen Brothers film about a folksinger from Greenwich Village. Inside Llewyn Davis lacks the clever plot twists of early hits like Miller’s Crossing, the dark psyche of Barton Fink, and the enjoyable supporting characters of The Big Lebowski. But, no two Coen Brothers movies are ever alike; in fact, to appreciate them as auteurs one must have a predilection for the unique versus the familiar.
This is probably why the few folk singers who remain from those early Village days sound off like cranky seniors in a nursing home, demanding that the Coens’ film knows nothing about the way things really were, contrary to the first-hand memory of T. Bone Burnett who was consulted in the recreation of the infamous Manhattan neighborhood circa 1961. But, everyone’s memory is different, as are their motivations. Jim Glover, half of the real-life folk duo Jim and Jean, used local newspaper coverage to snort at the film before diving into various half-baked conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination, the NSA, and the insistence that the F.B.I. kept him under surveillance in the 1950s because his father was a “fellow traveler” (code term for Communist sympathizer).
While leftist politics were a definite influence on the Greenwich scene, folks looking for Reds on the big screen will be as disappointed as those believing the film to be nothing but a glorified biopic of “Mayor of MacDougal Street” Dave Van Ronk and his cohorts. Tongue-in-cheek commentary on the leftist class structure typical to the folk music scene does more to motivate plot and character development than dig into the movement’s intellectual and political underpinnings. In fact, it is Llewyn’s struggle with culture that feeds his musical genius; he is neither uptown intellectual nor downtown middle class. While he’s willing to thumb his way from New York to Chicago to meet an agent, he is unwilling to compromise his artistic vision for commercial success.
1. There once was a black country blues guitarist named Arnold Schultz. Originally from Kentucky, Schultz was a travelling laborer who had a huge impact on American blues music during his short life.
2. Schultz taught this guy, Ike Everly, a unique thumb-picking guitar style native to Western Kentucky.
3. Ike Everly taught this style to his neighbor and fellow coal miner Merle Travis.
4. Ike Everly would bring his sons, Don and Phil, into the family band. They’d grow up to form the famous American music group, the Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers would go on to influence many musicians, including the Beatles. It is said that the harmonies in one of the Beatles’ first hits, Please Please Me, were inspired by the fraternal duo.
5. Merle Travis would go on to become a famous country and western musician, popularizing that fingerpicking style his neighbor Ike Everly taught him so much that it became known as Travis Picking.
6. Travis Picking is the style of guitar playing featured in the latest Coen Brothers release, Inside Llewyn Davis.
So, as we remember the life and legacy of Phil Everly and the Everly Brothers
We should celebrate the gift of American music
Without which the Beatles would not have existed
And we’d be forced to jam to techno-pop
Instead of those awesome Hillbilly tunes.
Produced by Randall Poster, Essays by Sean Wilentz and John Cohen.
Meant to honor the memory of the most divisive time in America’s past, the Civil War, this tribute to those who lived in our country at the time is a CD to cherish and play again and again. Indeed, nothing is more appropriate to explore the meaning of the War during its 150th Anniversary than listening to the stories of the soldiers. These citizens fought, lived, loved, and died in the thousands in this time of trouble.
If there is any justice in the music business, this compilation, produced by Randall Poster, music advisor for Wes Anderson’s films, assisted by the bluegrass guitar virtuoso par excellence Bryan Sutton, will win the Grammy for best traditional folk album. The much-abused and actually fairly meaningless term “folk music,”- since those playing the kind of songs on this album call themselves traditional singers and not folk-singers. So too does “Dr.” Ralph Stanley, who on these discs contributes “The Vacant Chair,” a song memorializing the death of Lt. John William Grout of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry, who died at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Stanley, whose voice long ago passed from the quality he had as a young man, could be singing in the voice of chastened veterans who themselves might have seen many of their comrades fall in battle.
What makes the performances stellar and unique is that the artists are drawn from the royalty of the best Nashville has to offer. From the community of old-time and traditional singers and pickers, as well as others like the young New Yorker and banjo master Noam Pikelny, they each use their own musical taste to try and capture what they think is how the songs were meant to be played and sung in the era in which they were written.
The last few months have been a roller coaster for the Grammy-winning acoustic folk-country-pop duo The Civil Wars. In November, they announced a temporary hiatus due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” Though they recorded a second album, members Joy Williams and John Paul White are currently not on speaking terms. That second, self-titled album debuted at number one on The Billboard 200 album chart.
While White is also not speaking to the media, Williams sat down with the Huffington Post, where she talked about the duo’s relationship, her own family, and what music means to her. Interviewer Mike Ragogna asked her point blank about the band’s hiatus, which Williams addressed carefully:
It was a true bump and it was a series of difficult situations that John Paul and I kept trying to make the best out of and then, at a certain point, the reality is that we’ve always really worked well together professionally. But you spend a lot of time on the road and those hours get long and you’re in close quarters, and friction and tension is bound to happen. It’s as age-old as time, bands having disagreements and finding themselves not on the same page all the time. The reality is we are working with some very real tension and a bit of a breakdown at the moment–and I say “at the moment” intentionally–and it’s something that we’re navigating. …I still hold out hope that there’s a possibility that John Paul and I could mend our fences and come back even stronger as a duo.
Williams talked about how proud she is of the new album and how the pain brought about more honest music:
It was born out of some strife and pain, but I feel like in the midst of all of that, it made for an even more raw and, in my opinion, moving body of work than we even did on Barton Hollow… That’s maybe some of the good that comes out of the difficulty that John Paul and I have found ourselves in as of late.
On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).
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.
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.