Sunday, November 6, 2022

Old Songs with Lessons for Today

If you have been reading these Missives for a while you already know that I love what was known as folk music and today is often called Country Music and Musicals. Recently some songs have been coming to mind that were written 60 plus years ago but remain apt today.

I will name the song and the name of the lyricist, when the song was written and pick a pertinent stanza. Under the lyrics the singer and YouTube link to the entire song.

Border issues are nothing new. “Deportee”, aka.“Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” written by Woody Guthrie, 1948. It is about the migrants that were brought in from Mexico to work in the fields and deported from California on the plane that crashed in Los Gatos Canyon.

“You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you is ”Deportees”
“Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted
Our work contract’s up and we have to move on.
Six hundred miles to the Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves”

Sung by Woodie’s son Arlo:

Do you remember the John Birch Society, lyrics by Michael Brown, 1961.

It was the forerunner of many groups today such as the Oath Keepers. It was then in the middle of the Cold War between the United States and Russia.

“Be careful when you get there, we hate to be bereft
But we’re taking down the names of everybody turning left”
“Join the John Birch Society, help us fill the ranks
To get this movement started we need lots of tools and cranks”

Sung by the Chad Mitchel Trio:

What Did You Learn in School Today, written by Tom Paxton and first sung by Pete Seeger in 1963.

What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers never die.
I learned that everybody’s free,
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
That’s what I learned in school.

Sung by Pete Seeger:

Tom Paxton also wrote “Buy a Gun for your Son” in 1965

“So buy a gun for your son right away, sir
Shake his hand like a man and let him play, sir
Let his little mind expand, place a weapon in his hand
For the skills he learns today will someday pay, Sir.”

Sung by Tom Paxton and a short interview by Pete Seeger:

This song written by Bob Dylan in 1964, “The Times they are a’changin’”

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin'
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Sung by Bob Dylan:

This is from a musical written in 1949. The show was “South Pacific” and the song was “You’ve got to be carefully taught”.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

Sung by Bill Lee (dubbing John Kerr) seen with Ezio Pinza from the 1958 movie version

“Where have all the Flowers Gone” was adapted from a traditional Cossack folk song "Koloda-Duda", Pete Seeger borrowed an Irish melody and adapted it for a an anti-war song in 1955. The last line of every verse is an appropriate ending.

“Oh, When will they ever learn
“Oh, When will they ever learn”

Sung by Peter, Paul and Mary at their 25th anniversary concert:

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