“THE PEOPLE SPEAK” (2): Human songs while waiting for the barbarians

This post is being written while the radio says the ultrarightist, sexist, racist, militarist, bitter Trump is about to become the new president of the US, the most powerful country in the world. The authoritarian, the totalitarian, are here again: seventy years after the fall of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and the likes, the Western world is about to sink again in one of the worst nightmares its sick spirit has been able to create. Horrible news for such things as environment, human rights, and arms control.

A moment to come back to The People Speak and find the voices of some of the brave, good people of America, those who fought oppression and brutality and tried to build an ethical country against violence and hatred. We need them as we are here -as in the title of a novel by J. M. Coetzee- waiting for the barbarians.

The People Speak contains some of the great folk songs the American countercultural movements have given to the world. Here are the songs and their lyrics, not necessarily taken from the film, but from the Internet.

BOB DYLAN, “MASTERS OF WAR” (1963)

Bob Dylan, “Masters of war”
Come you masters of war,
You that build the big guns,
You that build the death planes,
You that build all the bombs,
You that hide behind walls,
You that hide behind desks.
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy.
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive:
A world war can be won
You want me to believe.
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.
You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch.
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
While the young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world.
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins.
How much do I know
To talk out of turn.
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned.
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon

I will follow your casket
By the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.
WOODY GUTHRIE, “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND” (1940) (performed by Bruce Springsteen)
Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your Land”

This land is your land This land is my land

From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

WOODY GUTHRIE, “DO RE MI” (1937)

Woody Guthrie, “Do Re Mi”

Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin’ home every day,
Beatin’ the hot old dusty way to the California line.
‘Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin’ out of that old dust bowl,
They think they’re goin’ to a sugar bowl, but here’s what they find
Now, the police at the port of entry say,
“You’re number fourteen thousand for today.”

Oh, if you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.

You want to buy you a home or a farm, that can’t deal nobody harm,
Or take your vacation by the mountains or sea.
Don’t swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are,
Better take this little tip from me.
‘Cause I look through the want ads every day
But the headlines on the papers always say:

If you ain’t got the do re mi, boys, you ain’t got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.

YIB HARBURG, “BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?” (1931) (performed by Al Jolson)

Yib Harburg, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodly dum
Half a million boots went sloggin’ through hell
And I was the kid with the drum.
Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al
It was Al all the time
Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?
P!NK, “DEAR MR. PRESIDENT” (2006)

P!nk, “Dear Mr. President”

Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let’s pretend we’re just two people and
You’re not better than me.
I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

Dear Mr. President,
Were you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
How can you say
No child is left behind?
We’re not dumb and we’re not blind.
They’re all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell.

What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
Oh

How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head

held high?
Dear Mr. President,
You’d never take a walk with me.
Would you?
NEIL YOUNG, “OHIO” (1974)

Neil Young, “Ohio”

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

4 thoughts on ““THE PEOPLE SPEAK” (2): Human songs while waiting for the barbarians

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