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In 1976 for the bicentennial I rented a motor home, I thought that would be so cool, and three months later, I bought the motor home, gave up my apartment and I lived on the road for 26 years with my first two wives. Not at the same time. - Roy Book Binder, Bob West interview, Port Townsend 2006

Author Topic: Woody Guthrie Lyrics  (Read 489 times)

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Online Johnm

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Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« on: November 10, 2016, 02:19:56 PM »
Hi all,
I have recently been returning to the songs of Woody Guthrie.  I think he was a wonderful writer, who when he was as good as he could be, was about as good as Mark Twain.  I like his use of the guitar for accompaniment, and the people who specialize in his songs quite often do a really good job with them, too.
My favorite version of "1913 Massacre" is by Jack Elliott.  The chord progression is not complex, but occasional notes are held so that phrase lengths are variable, and Jack Elliott's pattern picking is beneficially monotonous.  I think it is a perfectly amazing song.  The way Woody Guthrie set the scene just draws you in completely.  Here are the lyrics, as best as I can hear them.  Here is Jack Elliott's performance:



Take a trip with me, in 1913
To Calumet, Michigan in the copper country
I'll take you to a place called Italian Hall
And the miners are having their big Christmas ball

I'll take you in a door and up a high stair
Singing and dancing is heard everywhere
I'll let you shake hands with the people you see
And watch the kids dance 'round the big Christmas tree

There's talking and laughing and songs in the air
And the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere
Before you know it, you're friends with us all
And you're dancing around and around in the hall

You ask about work and you ask about pay
They'll tell you make less than a dollar a day
Working their copper claims, risking their lives
So it's fun to spend Christmas with children and wives

A little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights
To play the piano, so you gotta keep quiet
To hear all this fun you would not realize
That the Copper Boss thugmen are milling outside

The Copper Boss thugs stuck their heads in the door
One of them yelled and he screamed, "There's a fire!"
A lady, she hollered, "There's no such a thing.
Keep on with your party, there's no such a thing."

A few people rushed, and there's only a few
It's just the thugs and the scabs foolin' you
A man grabbed his daughter and he carried her down
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out

And then others followed, a hundred or more
But most everybody remained on the floor
The gun thugs they laughed at their murderous joke
And the children were smothered on the stairs by the door

Such a terrible sight I never did see
We carried our children back up to their tree
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree
And the children that died, there were seventy-three

The piano played a slow funeral tune
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon
The parents, they cried, and the miners they moaned
To see what your greed for money has done

Edited 11/11 to pick up correction from alyoung

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 06:15:15 AM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2016, 02:26:52 PM »
Hi all,
Another particular favorite for me of Woody Guthrie's songs is "Deportee".  Like Bob Dylan after him, Woody often set new lyrics to pre-existing melodies.  If that was the case with "Deportee", I don't know the source of the melody, but it certainly sounds Mexican.  If Woody wrote the melody as well as the lyrics, congratulations to him for coming up with a melody that so perfectly matches his lyrics and the story he was telling.
The version of the song that I worked from was performed by Cisco Houston, singing and accompanying himself on guitar, with Woody Guthrie backing him on mandolin.  I like the earnestness of Cisco Houston's vocal, and his chord choices.  Some of the more modern versions do what seem to be inappropriate things to the chord progression, at least to my taste.  Cisco backs himelf out of C in standard tuning, capoed at the first fret.  (More likely, Cisco was tuned high or tuned low, since it is unlikely that Woody Guthrie was playing the mandolin out of Db.)  Here is a link to the Cisco Houston version:



Here are the lyrics:

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are stacked in their creosote dumps
They're flying them back to that Mexico border
To pay all their wages to wade back again

CHORUS: Goodbye to you, Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

My Father's own Father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My brothers and sisters come, working the fruit trees
And they rode on the trucks 'til they took down and died

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

Well, some are illegal and some are not wanted
Our work contract's out and we've got to move on
Six hundred miles to that Mexico border
They chased us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita

Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

We died in your hills and we died on your deserts
We died in your valleys, we died on your plains
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes
Both sides of that river, we died just the same

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita

Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

The skyplane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon
Like a fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita

Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on my topsoil
And be known by no name except "deportees"

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios, mi amigo, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big aeroplane
And all they will call you will be "deportee"

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 03:27:06 PM by Johnm »

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2016, 02:30:03 PM »
Hi all,
Another favorite Woody Guthrie song for me is "Do Re Mi", which Ry Cooder did a great version of, years ago.  The version I worked from is Woody Guthrie's own.  Here is a link to the performance I used as a model:



Lots of folks back East, they say, is leaving home every day
Beating the hot old dusty way to the California line
'Cross the desert sands they roll, getting out of that old Dust Bowl
They think they're going to a sugar bowl, but here is what they find:

Now, the police at the port of entry say,
"You're number fourteen thousand for today.

CHORUS: Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks,
If you ain't got the do re mi
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas
Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee
California is a Garden of Eden
A paradise to live in or see
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi

You wanta buy you a home or farm, that can't deal nobody harm
Or take your vacation by the mountains or sea
Don't swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are
You better take a-this little tip from me

'Cause I look through the want ads every day
But the headlines on the papers always say

CHORUS:  If you ain't got the do re mi, boys,
You ain't got the do re mi
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas
Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee
California is a Garden of Eden
A paradise to live in or see
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi

All best,
Johnm

Offline Lignite

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2016, 03:23:30 PM »
Hey John,
I think Woody Guthrie wrote Deportees as a poem after the event in 1948. From what I have read the Mexican-like melody was written 10 years later by a school teacher named Marion Hoffman and was popularized in the folk scene by Pete Seeger performing it. I think Cisco's version is from 1963, so it is probably not Woody playing mandolin with him as he would have been incapacitated at this time with Huntington's Chorea. Thanks for including some of Woody's songs. Have you ever heard his song New York Town which has a melody based on Lemon's One Dime Blues?

Offline Stuart

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2016, 03:29:53 PM »
Hard to go wrong with Woody, John. As an FYI, here's a link to a recently published book that may be of interest to some:

http://www.sasquatchbooks.com/book/?isbn=9781570619700&26-songs-in-30-days-by-greg-vandy

https://www.amazon.com/26-Songs-30-Days-Northwest/dp/1570619700

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2016, 03:32:02 PM »
Hi Lightnin',
Thanks for the information on Marian Hoffman.  I do think it was Woody playing mandolin because it sounds like his playing on other recordings.  Plus, Cisco died in 1961, so the recording couldn't have been from 1963.  Yes, I am familiar with Woody's "New York Town"--hey, hey, hey, hey.
All best,
Johnm

Offline eric

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2016, 05:04:24 PM »
Quote
I think he was a wonderful writer, who when he was as good as he could be, was about as good as Mark Twain.

Powerful stuff and as timely as ever.  Most folks here probably know he wrote a great book: Bound for Glory.  On a personal note, I first heard Woody on his Library of Congress sessions put out by Elektra when I was about 12 or 13 (more than 50 years ago...)  Listening to him sing and tell stories to Lomax was a life altering event for a kid born in the oil patch whose folks worked the oil boomtowns of SW Kansas and NE Oklahoma.

« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 01:36:25 PM by eric »
--
Eric

Offline alyoung

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2016, 02:02:58 AM »
Re 1913: a small lyric amendment ... second line of verse 7 is "It's just the thugs and the scabs foolin' you"

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2016, 05:51:09 AM »
John,
Thanks for starting this thread. Woody's been a part of my life longer than most musicians thanks to my father who introduced me to him, his songs and his spirit when I was just beginning to learn about life.

Woody is one of those artists who is continually surprising you as you discover more and more of the words and songs and drawings he left behind. My biggest surprise came when I heard 'Remember the Mountain Bed' from the Billy Bragg and Wilco album 'Mermaid Avenue Vol II'. The lyrics are possibly some of the most beautiful and heartwrenching that the American soil has ever inspired. I know Woody had a long time love of Walt Whitman and the lyrics to 'Remember the Mountain Bed' certainly show it. I remember reading way back somewhere (where I forget) that some (or maybe just one) speculate that Woody had more of these types of songs (love songs I suppose) but that those who recorded him the most were mainly interested in labor and travel and historic story songs and so Woody didn't get a chance to fully display his array of subject matter. That may be true but it could be Woody just never got around to it or perhaps felt songs like these were too personal to share.

Anyway. I can't let a discussion of Woody lyrics pass by without mentioning mountain bed. Sadly Woody never recorded it himself but I think Billy Bragg and Wilco made the right choice in providing a fairly simple backdrop that lets the words pull you through the song.



The lyrics can be found at the below site though I found a few very slight differences in how Jeff Tweedy is singing them and there's really not much you can't make out from the way he delivers the lines.

http://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Remember_The_Mountain_Bed.htm


Thanks again John, I always enjoy your deep delving into America's songbag.

Lew
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 05:53:32 AM by TenBrook »

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2016, 06:18:47 AM »
Thanks very much for the catch on the lyrics to "1913 Massacre", Al.  I've never heard that line right in all these years, and now I do.  I've made the fix.  Thanks!
Thanks as well to Stuart, Lightnin', Eric and Lew and all who make contributions here.  I've been thinking of starting this thread for a long time, but it seems especially pertinent now, somehow.
All best,
Johnm

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2016, 09:42:59 AM »
Hi all,
Another favorite Woody Guthrie song of mine is "Pretty Boy Floyd".  Here is Woody doing it (with the last line of the last verse truncated):



If you'll gather 'round me, children, a story I will tell
About Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw, Oklahoma knew him well

It was in the town of Shawnee, it was Saturday afternoon
His wife beside in him in his wagon, as in to town they rode

There a deputy sheriff approached him, in a manner rather rude
Using vulgar words of language, and his wife, she overheard

Pretty Boy grabbed the log chain, and the deputy grabbed his gun
In the fight that followed, he laid that deputy down

There's a many a starving farmers, the same old story told
How this outlaw paid their mortgage, and saved their little homes

Others tell you of a stranger, that come to beg a meal
And underneath his napkin left a thousand dollar bill

It was in Oklahoma City, it was on a Christmas day
There come a whole carload of groceries, with a letter that did say,

"Well, you say that I'm an outlaw, you say that I'm a thief,
Here's a Christmas dinner for the families on Relief."

Now, as through this world I ramble, I see lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen

But as through your life you travel, and as through your life you roam
You will never see an outlaw drive a family from their home

In other versions of the song he adds this verse as the fifth verse:

Then he took to the trees and timber, to live a life of shame
Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name

All best,
Johnm





 

Offline Lignite

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2016, 11:56:16 AM »
Hey John,
Not trying to argue here 'cause you know I love it. I had to do a little sleuthing here because I enjoy being full of "useless and pointless knowledge". Deportees was from the Cisco Houston Vanguard LP "Sings The Songs Of Woody Guthrie" which got released in 1961, just prior to Cisco's death. The musical accompaniment is by Eric Weissburg (later of Dueling Banjos fame) on the fiddle, banjo and mandolin. I imagine he listened to a lot of the  earlier Woody and Cisco Asch recordings to learn to play in Woody's simplified mandolin style.

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2016, 12:07:20 PM »
Well, good on you for tracking that down, Lightnin'!  I think my sister used to have that album, but I haven't seen it in years.  Both that one and the one Jack Elliott did on Prestige of all-Woody Guthrie songs were awfully good records.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline One-Eyed Ross

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Re: Woody Guthrie Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2016, 08:02:18 AM »
Growing up the son of an Okie, less than 50 miles from Grand Coulee Dam, an Okie who more or less followed that "Grapes of Wrath" "Bound for Glory" migration route as a very young man (13 or so) I have listened to Woody's music for a very long time.  (Although, my dad could never accept him borrowing the tune for "Irene, Goodnight" for "Roll On Columbia" - he though Lead Belly's music should be left to Lead Belly.)

To me, Woody was more of a collector and poet than a singer/songwriter...hurt my dad a lot when Woody died.
SSG, USA, Ret

She looked like a horse eating an apple through a wire fence.

 


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