Posts Tagged With: ballads

WORKING PEOPLE’S SONGS

As I move things to my storage building, there is pleasure in looking over some stuff I’ve saved before tossing.  I savored an old calendar from 1980 with working people’s songs, the kind of stuff  Woodie Guthrie might sing, though way before his time. The first one in the calendar is familiar to just about every American:  I’ve Been Working On The Railroad .

Less familiar is Factory Girl.

The words are simple and direct to the point:

No more shall I work in the fac ‘try, greasy up my clothes,

No more shall I work in the fac’try, with splinters in my toes

Chorus: Pity me my darling, Pity me I say

Pity me my darling, and carry me away.

No more shall I wear the old black dress, greasy all a round,

No more shall I wear the old black bonnet, with holes all in the crown.

Chorus:

No more shall I see the super come, all dressed up so proud,

For I know I’ll marry a country boy before the year is out.

The only way out of gritty, poverty for a woman, was marriage. For a man it was worse.

 

Another song of the times is The Coal Baron’s Song.

Oh, yes, let them strike as much as they like, to us ’tis a perfect boon,

Oh, merrily high the prices fly, on monopoly’s big balloon.

Tho’ they starve by bits in the inky pits, tho’ their children cry for bread,

The end of the game must be the same, King Capital keeps ahead.

2nd verse:

Good pay? How absurd, upon my word, what more can the men require?

You speak of the poor, what they endure, deprived of their bit of fire,

What of control the price of coal, yet reduced at this time of year,

Our dividends, my worthy friends, would rapidly disappear.

3rd verse:

I’m willing to add, their work is bad, and dangerous too, to face.,

But when one stops and reels and drops, there’s another to take his place,

And supply and demand, throughout the land, it is by that we will stand or fall,

We’re dealing in coals, but bodies and souls, are not in our line at all.

I’d never heard of this song before. It is poorly if plaintively written and is an old folk ballad original to America.

While I was about this subject, I found a non-profit website for such ballads and folk music indigenous to our country at Smithsonian Folkways.  You might want to check it out. It has some interesting stuff. Especially the blues and lament of black freedmen and slaves who had an even greater cross to bear than poor whites.
http://www.folkways.si.edu/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=BrandedSFW
 

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HARVEST THE WORD

An apt and clever title, Harvest The Word. A writer’s symposium was staged in Murphys over the weekend, sponsored by Writers Unlimited. This event was something very personal to me because I know so many of the local writers. I saw this group get started in 1984, and watched it grow. My point being, a small community can nurture its creative community of writers and thrive. I say very personal to me because when I first moved to the Mother Lode, I wondered if I would find other writers to workshop with. What is the library like? I was often asked by people from surrounding communities, “What do you do up here?” Omigod! Everything. There is so much to do in the foothills it makes me wonder why we didn’t move up sooner.
I always wanted to see a Writers Workshop with successful writers teaching those aspiring writers. And, Writers Unlimited, under the guidance of Monica Rose, made it happen this weekend at the Native Son’s Hall.

It sometimes astounds me how many successful writers have come out of the Motherlode and published books relating to this unique area. Ted Laskin’s From The Mines Comes The Law. He is a local attorney.Glen Wasson, a local balladeer.

Glen has a new book out, River Of Skulls.
Over the years, Glen has portrayed, quite humorously, a couple of the characters he has written ballads about, notably Black Bart, the bandit. He writes ballads about contemporary characters as well. For instance a bunch of guys were hanging out at the Murphys Hotel. A guy comes in with a nice gold nugget and plops it in his beer glass and it passes from one hand to another for everyone to gaze and gawk. One guy decides to chug-a-lug the beer and the nugget. Then all hell broke loose.  His ballad tells the full story in verse.
Or the ballad about the rancher from Valley Springs who got arrested for “Drunk Riding” when he left the bar drunk on his horse. Was he driving? He claimed the horse knew the way, he didn’t have to drive him.
The Writers Unlimited, for locals who may want to join, writers meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Calaveras County Arts Council Offices in San Andreas, on the 2nd and 4th Mondays. Writers collectively publish their work in a book called Manzanita. A website for Manzanita is:  http://manzanitacalifornia.org
As for things to do in the Mother Lode? I attended the symposium to anchor a CCTV local Public Access Station’s video of the symposium. One never lacks for something to do in the Mother Lode.
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