Pass along a news tip by clicking HERE.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

As He Packs It In, Strickland Offers Words Of Woody Guthrie: Folksinger Wrote About America's Bounty, Hardships of Downtrodden

Woody Guthrie
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Outgoing Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is telling disappointed supporters to find solace in the the words of Woody Guthrie.  Strickland quotes the folksinger who said he refused to write song lyrics "that makes you think that you are not any good."  Guthrie died in 1967, but he remains a giant who chronicled the Depression, the Dust Bowl and patriotism in the face of despair.  The quote Strickland chose to put in his concession speech Tuesday night -- and which may tie him forever to Guthrie -- is about pride, work and simple virtue overcoming ill fortune.  Strickland is from Appalachia and grew up in hardscrabble poverty; Guthrie was from Oklahoma and knew a hardscrabble existence.  Nobody is really sure where Guthrie delivered the words that Strickland is citing -- probably off-the-cuff during one of his zillions of performances.  It seems to originally appear in print in a 1965 paperback called Born To Win, a 251-page book that contains drawings, scribblings, poems and musings from Guthrie, who is listed as the author.  The book is out of print.

Here's the quote as used by Strickland:  "I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that make you think you are just born to lose.  No good to nobody.  No good for nothing.  Because you are too old or too young or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that.  Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.  I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.  I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and it it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built.  I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

Strickland did not use the rest of Guthrie's words, which go on to say:  "And the songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.  I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kinds that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you've not got any sense at all.  But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that.  The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow."

Mark Allan Jackson, whose 2002 Louisiana State University PhD dissertation is considered authoritative about Guthrie's life and philosophy saw Guthrie as a beacon for essential human rights. He saw Guthrie as a man who watched people suffer hard times in dignity.

"Considering its sympathy for suffering Dust Bowlers, disenfranchised tenant farmers and abused migrant workers, Guthrie's work . . . could be denounced as being biased. Where, critics might say, are the bums and drunkards, lay-abouts and louses in his description of these people? How is it that all those whose suffering Guthrie captures stand amongst these noble poor who had had their fortunes and rights unjustly denied? . . . In effect, Guthrie wanted to express the other side of the situation in his song lyrics by describing the dehumanizing, demoralizing conditions that the Dust Bowlers, the tenant farmers and the Okie migrant laborers suffered under in America during the Great Depression. By providing these stories in a sympathetic voice, he not only exposes the unfulfilled promise of the 'Land of Opportunity' and other national myths but urges the audience to feel for the people who inhabit the songs." 

That was Ted Strickland. He felt sympathy for the people who inhabit the songs, he wanted to serve them, he wanted no one repressed and marginalized and, like Woody, dreamed of an Ohio with pastures of plenty.


  1. This is a really nice post, Bill. Hope you are well.

  2. Great to hear from you Jill. I pray all is well with you and yours. I am enjoying life, really enjoying it all.