Archive for August 13, 2012
The Ghost of Woody Guthrie
CD by Bucky Halker & Andy Dee
Reviewed by Mike Matejka, Grand Prairie Union News, Bloomington, Illinois
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967) is an American musical genius few people know, outside of leftists and folkies, but we sing his songs.
Yet just gather some Americans and start to sing “This Land is Your Land” and everyone knows to join in, “this land was made for you and me.” But few people know the itinerant Oklahoman who wrote that patriotic anthem that celebrated the land and the people, not armies or “bombs bursting in air.”
A second grader in Ashland, Wisconsin, Clark Halker, learned “This Land.” It stuck with him; Clark Halker eventually became “Bucky” Halker, a talented musician, comfortable with folks, country, rock and roll or the blues. No matter where Bucky traveled musically, scrawny old Woody kept showing up. Halker learned he and Woody had a lot in common: working class politics, music, women and the open road.
Bucky not only became a polished musician, he completed a History PhD. In his studies, he poured through old 19th century labor newspapers and pamphlets, finding workers’ poems and songs about their jobs, unions and aspirations. That eventually became his thesis and a book, For Democracy, Workers and God.
Guthrie’s life was not a storybook tale. His family went from success to poverty; his sister and a daughter died as children in tragic fires. Woody wooed women everywhere but was rarely loyal to his wife and children. He died from Huntington’s Disease, barely able to speak or move, just when his music was being rediscovered by the 1960s folk music revival.
Bucky kept coming back to Woody, tapping that crazy, gifted, freight-train hopping, oddly American spirit.
Bucky was asked to write a Guthrie biography. He spent many hours in the Guthrie archives in New York. He befriended Guthrie’s last wife, Marjorie and his daughter Nora.
Instead of a Guthrie biography, Bucky and Andy Dee produced a two-disc album, The Ghost of Woody Guthrie.
Ghost is a blend; there are four original Guthrie songs, played in contemporary style. Bucky’s original pieces complete the discs, reflections on Guthrie’s life and spirit.
Guthrie’s Huntington’s disease echoes through two songs, “Words that I can’t speak,” where they dying singer asks a visitor to light a cigarette and “just place it between my lips,” and “Everybody’s got a monkey.” No matter how good a person is, there’s always a fault, a “monkey on their back” that rides them.
Guthrie’s sister Clara died in a fire when Woody was a child; Bucky’s family lost a sister before he was born. He asks for both of them in a plaintive tune, “Who took my sister away?”
Guthrie could be scathing in his political anger, as can Bucky. “Ridin’ into Springfield” slams Illinois’ infamous political reputation. “Big Hat” salutes the nation’s dark political spectre, “Shotgun” Dick Cheney.
Woody’s loves get their homage. “Woody and Mary, 1933” is about his first wife in Oklahoma, Mary Jennings. Later Woody married Marjorie Mazia, a New York trained dancer; despite Woody’s travels and infidelities, Marjorie was the one who cared for him and kept his name alive. “Marjorie Dear” is a charming waltz, echoing a dancer’s delicate steps.
Another delight of this two disc set is not only the music, but Bucky’s extensive liner notes, musing on Bucky’s life and how he and Guthrie continued to intersect, two itinerant musicians who not only tried to sing a song, but send a message.
Guthrie always identified himself as working class; Bucky revives two Guthrie classic, “Jackhammer John” and “I Ain’t Got No Home.” Bucky includes an original piece, “The Ballad of 393,” a homage to Laborers International Union Local 393 in Marseilles, Illinois, a local which regularly hosts Bucky’s performances. Like “Jackhammer John,’ “393” celebrates skilled labor,
“Workin’ on concrete,
layin’ down pipe,
puttin’ up scaffold,
Locks, dams, building
393’s got a mighty
Numerous Guthrie ballads roll along the open road, Bucky shares his own roads from childhood Ashland, Wisconsin in “They All Give Me the Blues”
The finest song is the last, “Woody Guthrie’s Union.” Bolstered with a children’s chorus, Bucky distills Woody’s message to one word, “Love” — a love that includes not only singular relationships, but stretches to include humanity.
Woody would relate; the Ghost of Woody Guthrie includes quiet reflection, spirited anthems and a nice pinch of “stick it to the devil” attitude — enjoy.
Visit www.buckyhalker.com for purchase and details.
A HEALTHY DISCUSSION is a series of bipartisan forums that will give Iowa Congressional Delegation members an opportunity to discuss critical health topics with Iowans. You will hear firsthand how our elected officials will work to reduce the cost of medical care in the United States, improve the quality of our health outcomes and strengthen the health care workforce. Join us for this important discussion on the future of health care in Iowa.
August 14 at 12:00 p.m. – Senator Chuck Grassley
August 20 at 3:00 p.m. – Congressman Tom Latham
August 21 at 12:00 p.m. – Congressman Leonard Boswell
All events held at:
Des Moines University
3200 Grand Ave.
Medical Education Center
We hope you will join us in this exciting discussion!
You can livestream The Fallon Forum at www.fallonforum.com from 12:00-1:00, Monday-Friday. Podcasts available, too. And you can still catch Bradshaw after Ed starting at 1:30.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as a running mate. It further solidifies the probability of Barack Obama’s reelection – and I say that as someone who, as Arnie Arnesen stated on my program last week, is “majestically disappointed” in the President. But I’m willing to put my majestic disappointment aside in order to avoid the accelerated destruction of America’s middle-class, which most certainly would be the crowning legacy of a Mitt Romney presidency.
Just as Sarah Palin’s outrageous viewpoints and statements on social issues proved a liability to John McCain, Paul Ryan’s budget and economic policies will enhance Mitt Romney’s undoing. But hey, at least we’ll have a conversation focused on issues instead of whether one can see Russia from one’s house.
So I say, “Let that conversation begin!” I’m sure President Obama and the DNC are a few steps ahead of us on this. Let’s just hope the dialogue from the Democratic side stays focused on the facts of Ryan’s (now Romney’s) Path to Prosperity. One would hope the truth will be damaging enough to sink both Romney’s presidential ship and Ryan’s efforts in Congress to further enslave the middle class under the guise of deficit reduction.
Monday, former Green Party candidate for president David Cobb talks about the Move to Amend initiative, which is working to eliminate corporate personhood. Cobb will be in Des Moines on August 14th to speak about this issue.
Tuesday, Dr. Karin Huffer joins me in the studio. Karin is an associate professor of counseling and forensic psychology at King’s University. She’s in Des Moines to discuss her book, “Legal Abuse Syndrome,” the back cover of which reads, “Huffer, with over twenty years experience in providing abuse therapy to her patients, has experience with white collar crime, court abuse and bureaucratic bungling. The result is a cumulative Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which she has identified as Legal Abuse Syndrome.” Should be an interesting conversation, and I want to thank Catering by Cyd for helping to sponsor it.
Wednesday, Arnie Arnesen is with me again. Last week on my program, Arnie called the Paul Ryan pick correctly, so I want to give her a chance to gloat a bit. Also, comedian/activist Lee Camp joins us. Finally, we’ll talk with energy guru Ed Woolsey.
Thursday, with President Obama spending three days in Iowa this week and all sorts of politicos soap-boxing at the Iowa State Fair, we’ll talk politics, both presidential and local. We’ll also talk about Mitt Romney’s visit with an Iowa “farmer” last week. And if you haven’t seen the farmer’s house, check this out.
Friday, Nathaniel Baer and I discuss the proposed Alliant Energy gas-fired power plant in Marshalltown. And Bery Engebretsen with Primary Health Care joins me, too.
So, join the conversation live, Monday-Friday, online from 12:00-1:00 pm on the Fallon Forum website. Call in at 244-0077 or toll free (855) 244-0077. And tune-in to Bradshaw, Monday-Friday from 1:30-2:30, also on the Fallon Forum website. Video and audio podcasts are available, too.
Thanks! – Ed
So just for the record, Howard Dean was a six-term governor of Vermont and ran a grassroots and internet-based campaign for president in 2004 on a platform of opposition to the war in Iraq, health care for everyone, fiscal responsibility and media reform. After John Kerry won the Democratic nomination, Dean was then the overwhelming choice of state Democratic party chairs around the country to be the chair of the DNC. Dean is also a physician who successfully implemented universal health care coverage for children in the state of Vermont. This is why the media allows him to come out when the conversation is about Medicare, Medicaid and health care reform. Howard Dean is not a darling of the media because he tends to tell the truth which TV abhors.
Yesterday, Governor Dean was a Roundtable guest on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. As soon as Dean began to speak he was interrupted by the host, attempting to correct Dean when he called the Ryan-Romney plan for Medicare a “voucher” program, and inserting Romney’s preferred talking point! (Then Peggy Noonan was allowed to loftily pontificate on and on. But that’s why it will be good when Up! With Chris Hayes is back on Sundays).
I’ve recently been thinking that “privatize” is not the best Democratic talking point to communicate what the GOP wants to do with Medicare. “Privatize” makes it sound sort of benign, like oh, it’s going to be the same program, just administered by insurance companies, kind of like insurance is now, that doesn’t sound too terrible, nothing to get upset about, nothing to see here folks, just move along…” The word “privatize” doesn’t really cause your internal alarm system to go off like “voucherize” does. With the word “voucher” the brain automatically conjers up images of layers of frustrating bureaucratic red tape with little certainty that it’s going to work out. The word “voucherize” correctly reveals that the complete gutting of the Medicare program is Ryan and Romney’s true intent. In a single word, you get it, you understand that this would be an end to the Medicare program. Period.
And think about this. If the Medicare program were ever to be God forbid reduced to a system of vouchers to help buy private insurance with, how hard would it be after that for them to chip away at it, or in the words of that great GOP thinker Grover Norquist, “drown it in the bathtub?”
Take note, progressives. The word is “voucherize” not “privatize.” Here’s Governor Dean.
Howard Dean: “Ryan is going to give a real choice. That’s exactly what Romney was trying to avoid before, he was trying to move toward the middle and Ryan makes it impossible for him to do that. Ryan wants a voucher program for Medicare – well, that’s anathema to some of the independents and seniors…”
George Stephanopoulos: “No he [Romney] doesn’t like that word, he calls it premium support…”
Howard Dean: “Yeah, it’s a voucher program. That’s what it is. You get a piece of paper from the government you can use, to spend it on buying health insurance and if you have to pay more too bad for you. It’s a voucher program.
You can go to ABCNews.com to watch the Roundtable portion of the show.