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Comments on Woody's Ten Best Songs

A few outstanding Guthrie songs that were not mentioned include “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “1913 Copper Massacre,” and “Philadelphia lawyer”.

“Pretty Boy Floyd” contains one of Woody’s best verses, which go like this:

As through this life you ramble
You’ll see lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six gun
And some with a fountain pen

But as through this life you ramble
and as through this life you roam
you won’t ever see an outlaw
drive a family from their home

“The 1913 Copper Massacre” never fails to bring tears to my eyes. A true story about a miners’ party in an upstairs hall victimized by thugs:

The copper boss thugs stuck their heads in the door
One of them yelled and he screamed, “There’s a fire”
A lady she hollered, “There’s no such a thing;
Keep on with your party, there’s no such a thing.”

A few people rushed and there’s only a few
“It’s just the thugs and the scabs fooling you.”
A man grabbed his daughter and he carried her down
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.

And then others followed, about a hundred or more
But most everybody remained on the floor
The gun thugs, they laughed at their murderous joke
And the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.

Such a terrible sight I never did see
We carried our children back up to their tree
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree
And the children that died there was seventy-three

The piano played a slow funeral tune,
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon
The mothers, they cried and the miners, they moaned,
“See what your greed for money has done?”

On a lighter note, “The Great Philadelphia Lawyer” tells a story of frontier justice with delightful lyrics:

One night when Bill was returning
From ridin’ the range in the cold,
He dreamed of his Hollywood sweetheart,
Her love was as lasting as gold.

As he drew near her window,
Two shadows he saw on the shade;
‘Twas the great Philadelphia lawyer
Makin’ love to Bill’s Hollywood maid.

The night was as still as the desert,
The moon hangin’ high overhead.
Bill listened awhile through the window,
He could hear ev’ry word that he said:

“Your hands are so pretty and lovely,
Your form’s so rare and divine.
Come go with me to the city
And leave this wild cowboy behind.”

Now tonight back in old Pennsylvania,
Among those beautiful pines,
There’s one less Philadelphia lawyer
In old Philadelphia tonight.

Also mentioned in the article, but only honorably, was a song I find thrilling and beautifully written, “Grand Coulee Dam.” A sample:

She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-roaring down the canyon to meet the salty tide,
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.

In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and wind ward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave,
Well, she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.

One hundred years after his birth, Woody lives on through his incomparable music.

Alan Scott

Tucson, AZ

Jul 13 2012 - 12:34pm