The Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at the Kennedy Center: Some Good Music, and some Dreadful Politics
When it came to the expected finale of the performers and audience singing “This Land is Your Land,” Morello interrupted the singing, walking in front of all the others and began a lecture, hectoring the audience to build a revolutionary populist movement. He of course used his now well-worn shtick he used at the anti-Scott Walker rally the night before the Wisconsin Governor’s victory. Repeating the same words -- as if they were spontaneous and new and not what he has done at every OWS event -- he ranted that you “motherf…ers have to get out there and become serious, and defeat the fascists.” He then said he has to be excused for the vulgarity, but the populist revolution can’t afford to be PG-13, because the goal is that serious. Doesn’t he know that epat le bourgeoise lost its shock value decades ago?At this point, as Morello said we should all sing the much heralded so-called censored version of This Land, which in fact were cut out by Guthrie himself and not by anyone else -- my wife and our friends stood up and left in a huff, making clear to those around us that we were leaving in protest of Morello’s antics.
Poor Ramblin’ Jack, who once wrote that because he hung out and learned from Woody, most people thought that he had Woody’s politics. Actually, Elliott wrote, Woody would spout and he let it go in one ear and out the other. Jack looked sad and dispirited to be standing on stage having to listen to Tom Morello ruin a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Yes, Guthrie was a Communist. But the times were different, and he showed a love for his country that the likes of this new New Left simply does not have. And Guthrie wrote some good songs, unlike Morello.
It’s just as good Arlo wasn’t there. The reason for his absence is sad, and he was sorely missed. But he was fortunate to be able to avoid the last major tribute of the year-long series. As for the rest of us, PBS was there filming it for their next annual fund-raising telethon. You can DVR it, listen to the best performers, and cut out the rest. If PBS doesn’t eliminate the screeds, I think they will find those donating will be insulted and not respond to their pleas for funds. Or perhaps PBS by now is used to appealing only to the hard, sectarian Left, thinking that that is their natural audience.