Home | About | Donate

In An Age of Trump, We Need Woody Guthrie


In An Age of Trump, We Need Woody Guthrie

Peter Dreier

If Woody Guthrie, America’s most revered troubadour for social justice, was still alive he would no doubt be celebrating his 104th birthday today by writing songs about Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, the physically handicapped, and other groups and about the growing Black Lives Matter movement against police racism.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Did the headline writer mean "In the age of Trump and Clinton,?


Right family, but wrong member. Woody's son Arlo sang The Donald's theme song:

"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in, it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant..."


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Since Woody was born in 1912 he was only nine years old when the federal government bombed "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. It was a white race riot, often referred to as a "pogrom." Wonder if he ever wrote about that later in life.

Mr. Dreier we also need more of George Clinton of The Ohio Players, Parliament, and Funkadelic fame. From the 1970 album Free Your Mind, and an unusual piece called Eulogy and Light, written by Eugene Harris:

Our father, which art on Wall Street
Honored be thy butt
Thy kingdom came, this be thy year
From sea to shining sea

Thou givest me false pride
Funk down by the riverside
From every head and ass
May dollars flow

Give us this day
Our daily bread
Forgive us our goofs
As we war from each other
Ye makest me to sell to sell dope to small children
For thou art king
And we adore thee

Thy destruction and thy power
They comfort me
My Cadillac and my Picway
They restoreth me in thee
Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of poverty
I must feel their envy
For I love pie and all those other goodies
That go along with the good god
Big Butt

But the theme song for both conventions should be George Clinton's blistering Funky Dollar Bill:

Funky dollar bill
US dollar bill
Funky dollar bill
US dollar bill

You go to school to learn the rules
On how to love and live your life
Think about it twice

The pusher push
The fixer fix
The juggler quits
The junkie lose his life
For the dollar bill

Funky dollar bill (refrain)...

You'll buy a life
A home and wife
A father learns much too late
He wasn't never home
He worked two jobs
He had two cars

Funky dollar bill (refrain)

It'll buy a war
It will save the land
It pollutes the air
In the name of wealth
It'll buy you a life
But not true life
The kind of life
Where the soul is lost

I mean the dollar bill
Funky dollar bill (refrain)


You got that so right.


Notice how patriotism is conceived in this passage:

"Guthrie penned the song in 1940 as an answer to Irving Berlin’s popular “God Bless America,” which he thought failed to recognize that it was the “people” to whom America belonged. In the song, Guthrie celebrates America’s natural beauty and bounty but criticizes the country for its failure to share its riches. The lyrics reflect Guthrie’s assumption that patriotism and support for the underdog were interconnected."

Protection of the underdog!

That was the basic call when the U.S. was called over to Europe to protect allied nations from Hitler's rampages and brutal martial forces.

In parallel, Hollywood celebrated the Just Man, the man who stood up for justice and those who didn't have a voice of their own.

One favorite that stands out is "It's a Great Life" and another "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Since the end of the Cold War, with the MIC already built up like a bully with no one to beat up, a new ethos was needed to maintain the Make War State.

And so the concept of patriotism became closer to just "kicking ass," while Hollywood sexed up the figure of the unapologetic KILLER (and expert user of firearms) in countless films.

Anyone who thinks that culture and media don't massage the mass mind as a prelude to war is not connecting dots that require connections.


"Some men rob you with a six gun, others rob you with a fountain pen", and "if we fix it so's you can't make money on war, we will all forget what we are killing folks for" are two Guthrie quotes that have rarely left my mind during the Administrations of Raygun, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama.

With Woody's son Arlo, associates Pete Seeger and others being blacklisted as "communist sympathizers" during the cold war, it would be highly unlikely that Woody would have been producing anything critical of THE MAN during the past half century.


Guthrie would have probably gone after Clinton as much as Trump. But then, lesser evilism wouldn't have scratched Woody's paint job.


Actually, in the age of Clinton, we need Phil Ochs...


We don't have Woody anymore but Bob Dylan and Neil Young are still going strong. Maybe they can do something. Young put out a great album on the Iraq War including such numbers as "Let's Impeach the President." Why wasn't Bush impeached? To stop Trump the math is easy, just ask Senator Bernie Sanders. Vote for Hillary Clinton. That would be one less vote for Trump and one more vote for Clinton. Enough folks doing that and we would not need any anti-Trump songs.


In comparing Medicare with Obamacare I found the Guthrie quote "Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple" most applicable.

The complexity of Obamacare is not foolish however, it is a masterful example of profit in complexity, profit in confusion strategy widely applied by corporations and the politicians they own.


Yes. For an award-winning documentary that takes Woody's radicalism seriously and up to the present moment check the 'American Road' website and its 4 minute teaser trailer. If anyone happens to be anywhere near Enid, Oklahoma, the film screens next at the FLY Film Festival 5-7 August.


Why are folks always harking back to protest singers from earlier eras, instead supporting the ones out there writing, singing, and touring right now? I suspect it's because it's harder to find them, with the overwhelming ocean of music available online and the narrow niche audiences for any given musician or genre. For current protest songs, check out the music of Roy Zimmerman, David Rovics, Emma's Revolution, and Dan Bern, among others.