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Songs That Tell Stories

 
 
MontereyJack
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Feb, 2011 01:19 am
Jack and Woody grew up in the oil fields in Oklahoma. Jack learned to ride a horse, and some of the cowboy things, and went off to Hollywood to be a cowboy in Western movies. He wrote back and told Woody he should come to California, he could make good money as a cowboy in the movies. So Woody went to California. At that time, one of the best ways to audition for acting parts was to ride in Pasadena's Rose Bowl Parade. The big movie moguls sat in the reviewing stand and watched you do your stuff as you rode by. So Jack goes by, ridin' and ropin' and shootin' and yippin', and then comes Woody. Woody rode by and fell off his horse in front of the reviewing stand. So he became a folksinger instead. And the rest is history.
0 Replies
 
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2011 11:41 pm


The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Men walkin' 'long the railroad tracks
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the ridge

Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' 'round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the Southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct

The highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad

Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."

Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
MontereyJack
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 12:20 am
This is in effect sort of a trilogy, to go along with Bruce Springsteen's song from Hingehead. Woody plowed the same field in the 30's with "The Ballad of Tom Joad", his song version of Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath", which he said he wrote for those folks displaced by the Dust Bowl and driven westward by drought and dust, who were too poor to pay 25 cents to see the movie about the Okies and the Arkies. In I think it was 1947, Woody wrote a song about illegal immigrant farm laborers who were killed in a plane crash while being deported. Arlo Guthrie and Emmylou Harris "Deportees/Plane Wreck at Los Gatos"


In the 30s and 40s the Okies drove west to California, with nothing to their name but the clothes on their backs and a beatup Model T, and were the stoop labor that picked our cheap produce. Then it was the Mexicans and Guatemalans and Salvadorans, legal and illegal, exploited and paid dirt wages, who've done it since. Tish Hinojosa's family has lived in the Southwest for 400 years. She has relatives who're migrant workers. She was thinking of a nephew of hers when she wrote this song, about the toxic insecticides on the crops they pick, and what they can do to a little girl--it's not "something in the rain", it's something in the spray.


And Tom Russell lives in Texas, literally just over the border with Mexico. He knows firsthand who's doing the ****-for-wages scut work that Americans won't do in Texas, that keeps Texas going.
MontereyJack
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 12:30 am
Looks like Sony's not gonna let us watch the Springsteen video. DRM Dynamic Rights Management run amok.
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 01:11 am
@MontereyJack,
Thanks for those vids Jack - I don't know if you know that I'm in Australia. Did you know I can by US lemons at the local supermarket? How little must the pickers get if foodbiz can fly them to Australia and sell them at the same price as local lemons? Not to mention the fuel wasted and the carbon pumped. Freaking crazy.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 05:35 am
@hingehead,
I've lived it. But for a few life changing events I might still be there.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 05:43 am
@MontereyJack,
Before I was born, my Mom's family were migrant farm workers, trying to get into California. But the border was closed to Okie traffic, by then. So they had to go back to Texas. When I was three, they tried again and were allowed in. Her father got work in a plant and she waited tables.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 10:21 pm
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 02:52 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgar, couldn't get your song to play, but most of know that Tom was a fictional character from The Grapes of Wrath, buddy. Love John Steinbeck.

The Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in Dare County in present-day North Carolina was a late 16th century attempt to establish a permanent English settlement in the Virginia Colony.

The enterprise was financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh, and carried out by Ralph Lane and Richard Grenville (Raleigh's cousin). The final group of colonists disappeared after three years had elapsed without supplies from England during the Anglo-Spanish War. They are known as "The Lost Colony" and their fate is still unknown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o99Y4Brq-GY&feature=related

Some people claim they have seen wraiths of those who were lost, however.

edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 06:25 pm
@Letty,
Well we know they weren't riding on the MTA, like Charlie, of Boston.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 06:34 pm
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Feb, 2011 09:01 am
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 09:58 am
@edgarblythe,
This song was introduced to me by Ry Cooder. It is low down and snarling. Woody's best paean to the out-of-working man's struggle in the Thirties.

I think this video is very fitting.

Thanks for a great post ed and Monterey, your mini blogs are fascinating. Kudos to Hinge, an Aussie with an ear to the world.
Folks, for more on Woody:
http://www.woodyguthrie.org/index.htm
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 10:11 am
@panzade,
When I attended a political rally in California, prior to the 1964 election, to view and listen to Barry Goldwater, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and John Tower, they played This Land is Your Land as a sort of theme. I thought it odd that conservative Republicans would seize on a flaming commie like Woody Guthrie.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 12:54 pm
As the Academy Awards are being presented tonight, American Routes, the public radio music history program, is focusing on movie themes. Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads was based on the movie The Grapes of Wrath which was based on the Steinbeck novel.

The show presented the unused at the time of the film's release, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," by the late singer Gene Pitney.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDN4L7cAQf0

That reminded me of the theme for High Noon, another movie theme that had an independent popularity. I had heard that the song was used to cut the film short, to eliminate the exposition and the what people call the back story by becoming the exposition.

The song was originally performed by Tex Ritter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzGtvnjtGtM


edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 03:44 pm
@plainoldme,
I have a copy of the album Dust Bowl Ballads, POM. Mighty fine set of recordings.

When High Noon was previewed before the first audience, the theme broke into the story so often that the audience began to laugh at it. So, they edited much of it out. With the success of the film, Tex Ritter repeatedly requested to release a record of the song, but was turned down. Only after Frankie Laine sold perhaps a million copies did they relent and give the public Tex's version.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 10:17 pm
@edgarblythe,
Ah, Hollywood legends. I had heard that the first cut of High Noon was so long that the theme was written to tell some of the story and reduce the length of the movie.

Poor Tex. I didn't know Frankie Laine recorded the song. I most associate him with Blazing Saddles.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 10:21 pm
@plainoldme,
Your version and mine could both be parts of a more complete story. One does not seem to negate the other.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2011 10:24 pm
0 Replies
 
MontereyJack
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Feb, 2011 07:49 am
edgar said:
Quote:
When I attended a political rally in California, prior to the 1964 election, to view and listen to Barry Goldwater, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and John Tower, they played This Land is Your Land as a sort of theme. I thought it odd that conservative Republicans would seize on a flaming commie like Woody Guthrie.


Arlo Guthrie was the guest artist at the Boston Pops 4th of July fireworks concert on the Esplanade 4 or 5 years ago, and he told the story of Woody taking him aside and telling him to remember ALL the verses of "This Land is Your Land", because people were leaving out the ones he thought were important in the song. This is one of those verses--I bet the uber-conservatives didn't sing this one:

As I went walkin' along the highway,
I saw a sign there, said "Private Property"
But on the other side, it didn't say nothin'
That side was made for you and me.
0 Replies
 
 

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