Oh Woody, Where Art Thou?

, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, ...

, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding guitar / World Telegram photo by Al Aumuller. Gibson L-0 (more pictures) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know we have good, socially aware artists today. There is a small army of performers who stand up and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.  We have plenty of musicians and actors who use their art and their place in the public eye to advocate. Mos Def, Ani DiFranco, Bruce Springsteen, Russel Simmons (yeah technically not a performer) and so many others stand up and raise their voices to give hope to the hopeless. That said, boy could this country use another Woody Guthrie.

Because Woody never turned it off. He wasn’t a performer who occasionally used his fame to bring to light the causes he held dear. His music was his weapon in the fight against oppression and greed. He was not flawless, and he knew it. He was willing to listen when the oppressed called him out for not being a good ally. He was one in ten million and a necessary motivator in a time when the fat cats were scrambling to hold down the growing labor movement, and when the powers that be were ratcheting up their efforts to emphasize our differences to keep us from working together. Does any of that sound familiar to you?

Since Woody’s death those same fat cats got it into their tiny heads to try that whole divide and conquer game again. They have not just played on our obvious differences, getting White people to be afraid of Black, and convincing them that any gain for People of Color is a loss for them, but have convinced the middle class to hate the poor, working or otherwise. for forty plus years they have used their command of mass media to convince us that the exploitation of the poor, environmental degradation, and increased corporate power are not just acceptable, but good. They have taken advantage of the lack of a strong, uncompromising, unrelenting voice and we are left with a world on the edge.

Of course we don’t really need a new Woody. We have it in us to reach out to our brothers and sisters, to join hands and form a line to hold back the forces that would tear us apart. It would be nice to have some new anthems to do that to, but then we have decades of Woody’s work to fire us up. His songs are timeless, as are their messages. This land is your land, and if you don’t stand up for it, who will?


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