Posts Tagged ‘Pete Seeger’

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)
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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.

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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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Votes can be cast up to three months from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

Pete Seeger back to the camera

I don’t recall feeling worse over the passing of a person who I never knew or met. Pete Seeger, quite simply, was one of my favorite people. He seemed to embody everything that was good in the world.

Pete Seeger extending hand

MUSICIAN PETE SEEGER SINGS AMAZING GRACE DURING A CONCERT CELEBRATING HIS 90TH BIRTHDAY IN NEW YORKspace
“Turn, Turn, Turn”
Nina Simone:

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Always on the right side of the issues.

Pete Seeger & Bob Dylan

“Where Have All The Flower Gone”
Peter Seeger:

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Never bowing to McCarthy nor the seemingly endless procession of right-wing thugs to follow.

Pete Seeger young with banjo

“Bells of Rhymney”
Robyn Hitchcock:

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Always ready to fight – nonviolently, of course – for the dispossessed and downtrodden.

Pete Seeger young by truck

“Little Boxes”
Pete Seeger:

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Always ready to speak his mind regardless of perils or consequences

Pete Seeger old playing outdoors

“Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”
Dick Gaughan:

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And always, always, always optimistic of the future.

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Pete Seeger faraway look

“We Shall Overcome”
Pete Seeger:

Pete Seeger holding banjo happy hatPete_Seeger old with guitar

Broccoli Fields Forever ...

Broccoli Fields Forever …

The consummate union song, “Which Side Are You On?”, was written by Florence Reece in 1931. Reece was the wife of Sam Reece, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. In 1931, the miners of that region were locked in a bitter and violent struggle with the mine owners. In an attempt to intimidate the Reece family, Sheriff J. H. Blair and his men (hired by the mining company) illegally entered their family home in search of Sam Reece. Sam had been warned in advance and escaped, but Florence and their children were terrorized in his place. That night, after the men had gone, Florence wrote the lyrics to “Which Side Are You On?” on a calendar that hung in the kitchen of her home. She took the melody from a traditional Baptist hymn, “Lay the Lily Low”, or the traditional ballad “Jack Munro”.  (Mostly extracted from Wikipedia, so who knows if any of it is accurate; but it makes for a nice blog intro.)

The first first studio release of “Which Side Are You On?” was recorded in 1941 by The Almanac Singers. The Almanac Singers was a politically and socially progressive folk band founded by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. The group’s line-up often expanded and contracted as new members, as well as Woody, came and went regularly. Woody once famously referred to The Almanac Singers as “the only group in the world that rehearsed on stage.”

Over the years “Which Side Are You On?” has been a staple for union organizing as well as worker demonstrations and strikes. The song has been covered by many and the lyrics have often been revised to reflect current political, economic and social issues.

The Original

The Almanac Singers:

Florence Reese:

This is surely one woman not to be trifled with!

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The Cover Songs Competition

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Billy Bragg vs. Dropkick Murphys

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Billy Bragg:

Dropkick Murphys:

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?!!?

Also, keep in mind that if you should spontaneously self-actualize while playing a cover then you could – and probably should – nominate it for Top 10 (i.e. “Impeccable”) consideration.

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Votes can be cast up to seven days from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.