Posts Tagged ‘Joe Ely’

Tune du Jour: “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)” – Woody Guthrie / Martin Hoffman
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: The Black River Republic vs. Joe Ely & Los Super Seven
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)

Memorial Service, September 2, 2013

On January 28, 1948 a plane chartered by U.S. Immigration Services crashed in Los Gatos Canyon, California. The plane was carrying 4 American crew members and 28 migrant workers deported from California back to Mexico. Many were part of the “bracero program” and had finished their government-sponsored work contracts. A ride home was part of the deal. Others had entered the country illegally.

There were no survivors from the crash. It was one of the worst aviation disasters of the era and was widely reported. The 28 migrant workers went mostly unidentified and were all buried in a cemetery in Fresno, California, in one mass grave.

Woody Guthrie was living in New York City at the time. The day after the crash the New York Times reported on the tragedy, providing the names of the 4 dead Americans while noting that the 28 other passengers were simply “deportees”. Woody was disgusted by the news coverage in general, which he felt consistently memorialized the 4 dead Americans while marginalizing the deaths of the 28 migrant workers.

Woody wrote a poem about the plane crash. According to Woody’s biographer, Joe Klein, “It was the last great song he would write, a memorial to the nameless migrants ‘all scattered like dry leaves’ in Los Gatos Canyon, where the plane crashed… The song, as he wrote it, was virtually without music – Woody chanted the words – and wasn’t performed publicly until a decade later when a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman added a beautiful melody and Pete Seeger began singing it in concerts.” The song’s title varies from “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)” to “Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportees)” to simply “Deportee”.

On September 2, 2013 a memorial service was held at the mass grave for the 28 migrant workers. A monument was unveiled to serve as the grave’s permanent headstone. The $14,000 for the monument and ceremony was raised largely by donations of less than $20 from individuals, including Woody Guthrie devotees and families of farmworkers. The monument is etched with 32 falling leaves, four of them bearing the initials of the Americans who died on the flight. In the center are the full names of the 28 migrant workers.


Popular Version

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Pete Seeger & Arlo Guthrie:

Geez, I grew up listening to this 2-album set practically on a nightly basis. And it still sounds great today.

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THE CLASH of Cover Tunes

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The Black River Republic vs. Joe Ely & Los Super Seven

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The Black River Republic:

Joe Ely & Los Super Seven:

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Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

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