two protest songs by Woody Guthrie call out his landlord
It's amazing how songwriter and singer Woody Guthrie is still timely decades after his death. Names were so important to him, he often called people out by name in his songs -- either to praise or condemn them. In his 1941 tribute song, "The Sinking of the Reuben James," he originally included the names of all 86 victims of the Nazi torpedoes. Pete Seeger had to dissuade him, convincing him no one would be able to remember the lyrics. Woody settled for:
Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?
While I was writing This Land Was Made for You and Me: the Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie I fell in love with his song, "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos," also know as "Deportee."
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"
Woody wrote songs passionately, and prolifically. Many were never recorded, but he jotted down the lyrics. The random pieces of paper were saved by his wife, Marjorie Guthrie, and then his daughter, Nora Guthrie, and are now at the Woody Guthrie Center.
When Woody moved to Brooklyn, NY, he rented an apartment at a big housing development called Beach Haven -- owned and run by Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father. Thanks to Will Kaufman for his diligent research turning up two timely songs about "Old Man Trump" and Woody's outrage over Trump's rental policies.
Here's a great NPR interview with Will Kaufman.