Monday, November 03, 2008

Immigrant songs 2

Reposted here.

Following this post, Martin M has posted this, with Christy Moore's gorgeous version of Woodie Guthrie's "Deportee", Martin's favourite version.

I have nearly half a dozen versions on the computer I'm typing this on, and a couple more on vinyl at my mum and dad's house. Some of the best are Cisco Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Barbara Danes and Arlo Guthrie. Although I was exposed to Woody Guthrie at a young age (folkie Communist fellow travelling family), the first version I heard, as a teenager, was that on The Byrds' Ballad of Easy Rider, one of the best albums ever. It was made after Gene Clark (whose version featured in this post).

If you're into this stuff, check this. Oh, and if you're American, you probably don't need me (or him, or him) to tell you to go and vote.

All Woody Guthrie posts here.

Keywords: folk music, mp3


Jogo said...

Here's what I found on wiki about that song:

The crash killed four Americans and 28 Mexican field workers who were being deported back to Mexico.

Guthrie was reportedly struck by the fact that radio and newspaper coverage of the event did not give the victims' names, but referred to them merely as "deportees." He responded with a poem, assigning symbolic names to the dead: "Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita; adiós, mis amigos, Jesús y María..." In contrast, the flight crew and the security guard were named in the New York Times report. [3]

The Mexican victims of the accident were placed in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California. There were 27 men and one woman, and only 12 were ever identified. The grave is 84 feet by 7 feet, two rows of caskets and not all bodies were buried the first day, but the caskets at the site did have an overnight guard.[4]

I love the song, it's one of my favorite songs, and it has never failed to move me. But somehow, I can't sign on completely to Woody's contemporaneous outrage at the "racist" treatment of the dead. Do you think that, in 1948, media could be called insensitive and racist for failing to publish the names of all the 28 foreign field workers killed in a plane crash in some dinky town? Furthermore, if only 12 of them were ever identified, surely this is due to cruel indifference by the Mexican government, as well. But Woody would never assign that sort of blame.

And do you think that authorities in that remote part of Fresno County can possibly be forgiven (or can their failing be overlooked) for not having the resources to bury every one of those 28 people on that first day?

Woody was a typical commie, always looking for evidence of America's and capitalism's evil. His diagram of the world was simple -- good guys and bad guys.

However, his vision of this event -- and his diagram -- brought forth one of the best and most moving songs ever written ... bar none. And the adiós, mis amigos chorus is, to me, the most chillingly compassionate lines of the song. Ultimately the so-called facts don't really matter, because the meta-fact is true.

Transpontine said...

My favourite after Christy and Woody's version is Dolly Parton.

bob said...

Gosh, I didn't know Dolly Parton did it! I also suddenly realise i've never heard the Woody original.