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GUEST,Lyle Origins: Big Rock Candy Mountain (John Hartford) (33) RE: Big Rock Candy Mountain (Hartford) 08 Dec 04

When reviewing the book "Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America. By Todd DePastino" Ms Abelson writes;

"Todd DePastino presents a complex argument. Using traditional sources and citing a mélange of songs (clarifying, in the process, the words of "Big Rock Candy Mountain," whose meaning has always puzzled me), dime novels, serious literature, letters, and the underground press, he makes a strong case for the life of unfettered white masculinity on the road. Racial exclusion, particularly of African Americans, seemed a given, and women who were not prostitutes were largely invisible in this new migratory world of casual labor. Homosexuality, which thrived in jungles and urban "main stems," was the unspoken reality of hobo sexual practice. Encouraged by an unrestrained male culture and the near absence of women, the "jocker/punk" relationship offered young men an easy way to get by and provided older men a degree of gender status outside the bounds of reigning middle-class behavior. Chapter Three, "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum," brings all these strands to life in a way that no other investigation of the road has done. DePastino writes with an exhilarating energy. The rest of the book, though richly textured and full of fascinating detail, particularly the section on the politics of the International Workers of the World, never quite recaptures the verve of the early chapters."

Like so many others here, the analysis of the song pointing to different interpretations has not changed my mind. It will always be a song about hopes expressed by desperate people trying to keep from starving to death.


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