A Voice From The Past

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screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-35-22-pmLady Gaga is a sly one. Even those who were fearful she’d turn the Super Bowl halftime show into a political statement are applauding her for keeping it upbeat and patriotic. In actuality, she trolled the bejeezus out of Donald Trump.

First was the song choice of “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, itself a social statement. Woody opposed the bankers and moneyed elite who’s policies and leadership had led to the Great Depression. He felt the government ruled from the wealthy enclaves of New York and D.C. and had lost touch with Americans across the country who struggled each day to put food on their table. Woody was a hero for those eager to work when there were no jobs to be found. His songs inspired a wave of folk artists who followed him, singing for social justice in America.

He railed against fascism, both home and abroad. He experienced the plight of immigrants first hand as he joined the great migration of farmers from Oklahoma to California, searching for work. He sang for unions. He sang for the downtrodden. He sang for all the people who felt government was no longer responsive to their needs. His beat up Gibson guitar bore a sign, “This Machine Kills Fascists” and he deeply believed in the power of words to change the world.

But the back story making Lady Gaga’s choice even more interesting is this. Woody Guthrie once rented from Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. Fred has his own racist history, refusing to rent to blacks and once being arrested at a KKK rally. Fred grew rich building FHA-backed housing in post-World War II New York. Guthrie rented a unit in a whites-only Brooklyn apartment complex named Beach Haven. Guthrie came to detest Fred Trump so much he actually wrote a song about him entitled, “Old Man Trump.”

Needless to say, we can assume Woody Guthrie is not on Donald Trump’s iTunes playlist.

It must have been galling for him to be sitting amongst friends at his ritzy private club, watching his favorite football team getting pounded through the first two quarters of the Super Bowl, followed by Lady Gaga’s halftime show. A show which included a song penned by a great American folk singer who also ardently opposed Fred Trump’s racist business practices.

“This Land Is Your Land” is a song who’s lyrics speak from the past in opposing an America ruled by the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the average citizen. The message remains relevant today.

I’m not surprised to hear Trump left before the second half.

Well played, Lady Gaga. Well played.

 

This Land Is Your Land
By Woody Guthrie 

This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

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 sparking sands of her diamond deserts,
All around me a voice was sounding,
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, then I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

One bright sunny morning, in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people,
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if,
This land was made for you and me.

Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me,
Was a great big sign that said, “Private Property, “
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking my freedom highway,
Nobody living can make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.

Maybe you’ve been working as hard as you’re able,
But you’ve just got crumbs from the rich man’s table,
And maybe you’re thinking, was it truth or fable,
That this land was made for you and me.

Woodland and grassland and river shoreline,
To everything living, even little microbes,
Fin, fur, and feather, we’re all here together,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, but it once was my land,
Until we sold you Manhattan Island.
You pushed our Nations to the reservations,
This land was stole by you from me.

 

Old Man Trump  
By Woody Guthrie

I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
No, I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

I’m calling out my welcome to you and your man both
Welcoming you here to Beach Haven
To love in any way you please and to have some kind of a decent place
To have your kids raised up in.

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
No, I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

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