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Woody Guthrie: source of tunes

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Jim Savarino http://songs.com/jims 01 Mar 99 - 04:20 PM
Roger in Baltimore 01 Mar 99 - 05:14 PM
JVZ 01 Mar 99 - 08:19 PM
Sandy Paton 02 Mar 99 - 12:05 AM
catspaw49 02 Mar 99 - 08:59 AM
Jim Savarino 02 Mar 99 - 10:18 AM
Rick Fielding 02 Mar 99 - 11:28 AM
Art Thieme 02 Mar 99 - 11:44 AM
catspaw49 02 Mar 99 - 01:02 PM
Dr John 02 Mar 99 - 04:34 PM
Rick Fielding 02 Mar 99 - 06:36 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 03 Mar 99 - 04:44 AM
JVZ 03 Mar 99 - 02:06 PM
catspaw49 03 Mar 99 - 05:54 PM
Rick Fielding 03 Mar 99 - 06:56 PM
catspaw49 03 Mar 99 - 07:48 PM
catspaw49 03 Mar 99 - 11:56 PM
northfolk/al cholger 04 Mar 99 - 05:42 PM
04 Mar 99 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,gsmith404@cox.net 02 Mar 03 - 10:51 PM
Mark Clark 02 Mar 03 - 11:57 PM
Neighmond 03 Mar 03 - 08:07 AM
Frankham 03 Mar 03 - 11:50 AM
Mark Ross 03 Mar 03 - 01:16 PM
Genie 14 Oct 10 - 01:47 PM
Joe Offer 14 Oct 10 - 04:01 PM
Stringsinger 14 Oct 10 - 09:28 PM
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Subject: Woody Guthrie
From: Jim Savarino http://songs.com/jims
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 04:20 PM

I was just looking at the Lyrics for "This Land is Your Land" and at the end read:

Words and music by Woody Guthrie, copyright 1956 and 1958 by Lidlow Music Inc. Recorded on his Greatest Songs album tune adapted (swiped?) from Carter Family's Rock of Ages RG

Wasn't most of the Carter Family music "swiped" from traditional songs?


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 05:14 PM

Jim,

Welcome to the folk process. It is not always respectful of "traditional"'s and "anon."'s copyrights. I'm not familiar with this specific "borrowing", but Woody borrowed extensively from both.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: JVZ
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 08:19 PM

I didn't know that it was a Carter Family song but it went like this:

"Oh my lovin' Brother, When the world's on fire, You need my Jesus, To be your savior."

And as far as the folk process is concerned, I've heard Pete Seeger quote Woody as saying about someone who stole a tune of his, "He just stole from me, Hell, I steal from everybody."

You can hear traditional melodies in songs from the Beatles to the "We are the World" bunch. So as Willie Nelson sang, "Let's settle down and steal each other's songs."


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 12:05 AM

We know it as:

Oh, my loving Father,
When the world's on fire,
Don't you want God's bosom
To be your pillow?
Oh, hide me over,
In the Rock of Ages,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me.

Continue with "Mother, brother, sister, etc." One of the many great "family" hymns. Sing it to the tune you know for "This Land is Your Land."

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 08:59 AM

I don't think there's any doubt that Woody freely admitted stealing from everybody. It's also worth noting that much of the Southern Mountain sound came from the Scots/Irish heritage modified through the years in the iconoclasm of the Appalachians. There is a popular story that accompanies "This Land is Your Land" and it may be truth or simply legend...or somewhere in between.

Seeger has told the story that he had accompanied Woody on one of his cross country treks and during that time Woody had played with the song some. At about this same time, Irving Berlin put out "God Bless America," which Woody considered to be bullshit. He had seen a different view of America, not seen from Tin Pan Alley. Homeless, jobless, and living a hard scrabble existence, Woody couldn't see how the Berlin song was much related to what he knew. So Woody wrote his song as a protest to the Irving Berlin tune, calling it, "God Bless America for You and Me." It took about 8 or 9 years to have Woody finally record this and just before he did, he decided to change the title and corresponding lines to what we now know. Maybe the years had taken the edge off some. Woody was approaching the end of his performance life by this point and although Pete had not liked the song much before, something about it struck him then and it wasn't long before the song became more closely associated with Pete than Woody.

Anyway, that's basically how the story goes. Somebody else have some more or different stuff. Sandy? Art? Anybody? Like I said, I've heard it more than once, but that don't mean it's true do it? **GRIN**

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Jim Savarino
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 10:18 AM

I had heard the story of Woody's reaction to a song leading him to write "This Land is Your Land", and read in "Bound for Glory" how he hated songs that make people feel low (paraphrasing here), and always wondered what song he was talking about. Thanks catspaw!


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 11:28 AM

A copy of Woody's original notes for the song has it's title (in his own hand) as "God Blessed America for Me". The immediate predecessor probably was the Carters' "Pal of Mine", which they adapted from the old hymn. I have not encountered ONE Guthrie song that had an original tune. If you think hard enough you can come up with the borrowed tune in every case. A few examples: "Ramblin 'round" and " Roll on Columbia" are from "Irene Goodnight". "Grand Coulee Dam" is "Wabash Cannonball", and..whoops...don't think I know where "Do Re Mi" came from. Any ideas? Some of the tunes like "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" were written by others. And of course Billy Bragg has written a whole bunch of tunes recently to Guthrie poems.


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 11:44 AM

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND is exactly the tune of the Carter Family's "LITTLE DARLIN', PAL OF MINE".

Oh, little darlin', how I love you,
How I love you, none can tell,
If in your heart you love another,
Little darlin, pal of mine.

Woody's "SO LONG, IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YA" is to the tune of "BILLY THE KID" as done by the Sons of the Pioneers and also by Tex Ritter.(Woody did add the chorus)

I'll sing you the true song of Billy the kid,
I'll sing 'bout the desperate deeds that he did,
Out in the west with a gun in his hand,
At the age of 12 years he killed his first man.

When Billy The Kid was a very young lad,
In old Silver City he went to the bad,
...

Art


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 01:02 PM

There are some Woody songs that I don't know the original tune for, but rather than feeling they might be original, I just assumed I hadn't heard it yet! Occasionally he threw in the new break strain or whatever, but if it didn't come from Tin Pan Alley or the migrant fields of California, then it was an Appalachian tune or one from the Texas plains. I don't believe that he ever had one iota of regret over it either, as he freely admitted being the greatest song thief of all time. It was the story that was important.

Dylan of course has often done the same, but with more finesse. Dylan has always been a poet and wordsmith first. I always found it amusing that when he wrote the song for Woody, the tune was stolen from Woody who had already stolen it!!! Must be some kind of double jeopardy thing there or something.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Dr John
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 04:34 PM

Woody's Reuben James: verses came from the Carter family's "Wildwood flower" but the chorus ("What were their names ... etc) seems to be Woody's original tune.


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 06:36 PM

Since I wrote my last posting, I've thought of a few Guthrie tunes that I cant think of the original tune that might have been used. Just goes to show you should rarely use absolutes. How about "Dust Bowl Refugee" and "Great Dust Storm Disaster?"


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 04:44 AM

Art, I just listened to the Carters' "Little Darlin' Pal of Mine" and then to "This land is Your Land" on the album of the same name. I don't think they are exactly the same. I listened to "When the World's on Fire" too and I would say "This Land" resembles both of them (although funnily enough, I don't think the two Carter songs resemble each other!).

Murray


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: JVZ
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 02:06 PM

The hand written early version of "This Land..." mentioned above is on display (or was a couple of years ago) at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Another Woody theft which hasn't been mentioned here yet is "union Maid" to the tune of "Red Wing".


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 05:54 PM

I think the litany of "thefts" is far longer than any list of "originals." And if a tune isn't exact, in many cases it's at least so close the fun's gone. But for me, none of this takes away from Guthrie the storyteller and poet, which is what he truly was. I remember Arlo saying something to the effect that people like his Dad heard or read about things that bothered them and wrote songs about them. True of Woody and many of his pals of the '30's and '40's. Stories, often of social injustice, set to some tune. We all know most were not original, but I'm sure some may have been.

Something else which came up in this thread...the oft quoted Woody line about songs that make people feel low and bad, and without hope. This sounds nice, but doesn't hardly stand up to any scrutiny either. "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" may end with a "can't we do better" kind of verse but isn't exactly hopeful either. "I Ain't Got No Home" doesn't fit too well. And then there's my wife's favorite cheery, happy, Woody number, "1913 Massacre."

I'm a fan and none of this takes away the importance and volume of work that Guthrie accomplished. There are so many things that some of us owe Woody and his compatriots that keeping the mythology to a minimum can never undermine their importance.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 06:56 PM

If you're a Woody fan, lay your hands on a copy of "Woody, Cisco and Me," by Jim Longhi. It's a wonderful read and gives a huge amount of insight into Woody's character. It also convinced me not to ride in any convoys during wartime!


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 07:48 PM

Hey Rick...is that still in print somewhere? I'll start looking myself, but I saw a copy of that a coon's age (no, I have no idea how old a coon is) ago when my friend Neil gave me his. Like an honest idiot, I gave it back. What I love about Mudcat...things you've forgotten pop back up. Course there are some things.............

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Mar 99 - 11:56 PM

I called Neil and he says my coon must be about a year or two old. He says I'm an idiot and that his downtown B&N had a copy the other day when he was there and perhaps I could get it quicker on the net. Sure enough, readily available!!!! So it was an embarassing evening, but now I know how old a coon is and it's almost as good as the metric system. Split the difference and make the coon one and a half.

"How long have you lived at your current address?"
"Oh, about 7 coonsage."

Also note new word!

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: northfolk/al cholger
Date: 04 Mar 99 - 05:42 PM

It is ironic that the nature of this discussion is "what Woody left behind", and the many references to the "use" of a lot of common tunes that Woody put topical words to.

This is in fact the Folk Process, but because we entered into the era of faster communication, more printing, more radio more TV, more opportunity to sell and steal a buck from music, the Folk Process became less admirable.

What I like about the legacy of Woody, was that he used his talents to deliver a message...granted it is a message I agree with...and some of you will not, but he developed a following, became a notable person for that ability, even to the extent that he was hired to play music in the bastions of the upper class...Rockefeller's Rainbow Room, at which time Woody sang a bit of anti-Rockefeller doggerel...Oh the Rainbow Room is five miles high, you can see old John D's oil flying by...and got himself unhired.

How many entertainers today will slap their employers, as a matter of principal?


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From:
Date: 04 Mar 99 - 09:16 PM

Woody may have 'borrowed' his tunes and much of his imagery, but he certainly knew how to get to the heart of the matter. It took John Steinbeck (one of my alltime favs) several hundred pages to narrate THE GRAPES OF WRATH; it took John Ford two hours of film to show it. But it took Woody only 15 verses to sing it, and the Ballad of Tom Joad is every bit as powerful as either of the other versions.---John (not Jon)


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: GUEST,gsmith404@cox.net
Date: 02 Mar 03 - 10:51 PM

I believe that "This Land is Your Land" was an original tune by Woody. In any event, no one ever claimed he was a composer, - he was a Folk Singer.

Guy Smith


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Mark Clark
Date: 02 Mar 03 - 11:57 PM

Guy, Take a look at Art Thieme's post of 02 Mar 99 - 11:44 AM. He correctly identifies the source for Woody's melody.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Neighmond
Date: 03 Mar 03 - 08:07 AM

"Hoboes' Lullaby" is loosely based on an old tune called "Arthur Clyde"

"Reno Blues" ("The Philadelphia Lawyer") is from an old tune called variously: "Floella, the Jealous Lover", Tennesee Valley" etc.

Chaz


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Frankham
Date: 03 Mar 03 - 11:50 AM

Woody was an original. He was an honest person although he had his problems like all of us do. I can speak because I knew him in Topanga Canyon, California and I was one of his pickin' buddies.

As a songwriter, he didn't care about copyright or who attributed what to whom. He always wanted his songs to be sung by everybody. 1913 Massacre was a hopeful song in that he felt that the more people knew about injustice, the more they would do something about it. Songs were the means. None of his songs were nihilistic or depressed like say Dylan's paranoid ramblings on Positively 4th Street, or Hank's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".
Woody's songs depicted the way things were. Hard times but with a hopeful quality that if you could see how people really live, someone would do something.

He would be on the side of the Iraqi people today, the 500,000 children that have died because of US sanctions and the numerous cancer victims of Bush's depleted uranium bombs. Woody was always there when an issue came up and he was never afraid to take a stand.

Woody was an iconoclast. The CPUSA threw him out. Too radical for them. But he was on the side of the poor people, the victims of imperial aggression, and would walk away from situations that he could not compromise himself over. He wasn't as famous in his lifetime as he was after his death. Anyhow, you can't say the same for any of his imitators.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie
From: Mark Ross
Date: 03 Mar 03 - 01:16 PM

Frank, You're right, Woody was too radical for the CP, but according to Marjorie Guthrie, they would never let him join because he wouldn't accept party discipline. He was just too much of an iconoclast.

Mark Ross


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Subject: Woody Guthrie quotation re copyright violation
From: Genie
Date: 14 Oct 10 - 01:47 PM

I've read a quotation from Woody about how he felt about copyright protection. To paraphrase, he said something like "these songs are protected by US copyright and anyone caught singing them or recording them will be considered a good friend of ourn ... "

But I can't find the exact quotation. Does anyone here have it and when it was said?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie: source of tunes
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Oct 10 - 04:01 PM

Hi, Genie-
The Wikipedia article on Woody Guthrie cites it, as do many other Websites - including this interesting blog. I haven't found anything close to an "original source," but here's the text from Wikipedia:
    "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."
    Written by Guthrie in the late 1930s on a songbook distributed to listeners of his L.A. radio show "Woody and Lefty Lou" who wanted the words to his recordings.

As its source for the quote, the Wikipedia article cites tulsaworld.com. I have an Oak Publications reprint of one of those mimeographed songbooks, titled American Folksong: Woody Guthrie, but it doesn't have Woody's copyright notice.

-Joe-
There is an extensive discussion of Woody's views on copyright here (click). It's probably better to continue the Woody Copyright discussion in that other thread.


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Subject: RE: Woody Guthrie: source of tunes
From: Stringsinger
Date: 14 Oct 10 - 09:28 PM

I think Woody's songs are copyrighted by Ludlow Music.


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