Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Woody has become the 2-year-old’s favorite singer, and so we listen almost every day lately. Luckily we have a few collections to choose from.

The more I listen, the more I like, and I’ve loved Guthrie since high school. His harmonica sound is uniquely robust and dusty at once, sounding like a calliope that’s been through a duststorm. I’ve always known him to be rhythmically virtuoso and most savvy, dramatically stretching out measures to suit the story and the song. What I’m loving more and more is his voice, the quality of his voice. He inherited from the Carter Family a stoic vocal affect coupled with a buoyant, urgent rhythmic drive. And this suits his political songs in a way that nobody since has touched. He never sounds angry. He has faith in people (THE people? -- not sure), that they’ll -- we’ll -- stick it out, hold our ground, get through, survive, prevail. And his urgent guitar rhythm and buoyant stoic powerful un-hysterical masculine voice embody that vitality and hope, even when the words are painting dire, dire pictures, as they often are -- he saw a lot, and didn't flinch.

He wrote “This Land Is Your Land” as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Originally Woody had it, “God blessed America for me” -- sardonic, sarcastic. One of his influences, Carl Sandburg, came up with a mean (and funny, if you happen to agree) parody lyric for Berlin’s tune, “Goddamn Republicans. . . .” Guthrie got beyond his sarcasm to something profound and even visionary.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

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