Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Song Writing 101: Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home"

(This post meanders a bit, but Imma let it go anyway.)

When I was in junior high, my theme song could have been the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes".  It had great resonance with me.  I believed I was basically a good - but misunderstood - kid.  "Behind Blue Eyes" beautifully described the feeling of alienation I felt for most of my elementary school years.  I only felt comfortable in my own skin when I was by myself.    When in mixed company, I thought that expressing anything other than anger or callousness was showing weakness.   Like those teens who suffer through the same awkwardness, junior high was a time of great loneliness.

Of course, everything I felt as the overly serious teen that I was is typical for teens across the land. At some point, I stopped taking myself so seriously and probably was a lot more fun to be around.  Though I believed differently at the time, there was nothing unusual about what I was going through.

Now a days, if I feel alienated, it is because the world around me ceases to make sense.  The "gambling man" in Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home" is the banker who lost all your retirement money making shitty loans.  The "working man" is anyone on the hook for this bullshit.  The "gambling men" are the white collar criminals who gamble with others' assets, trust and good will.  They are seldom held to account and indeed are rewarded for their efforts.  Doesn't make any sense to me.  The blue collar heroes (the miners and farmers in Guthrie's tune) that built this country are at best creatures of a pleasant national mythology and at worst extinct. Lured away from advancing an agenda for a  better standard of living by red herring social issues, they end up rallying for those that get rich off of their efforts.  Doesn't make any sense to me. Shall I keep going?

Of course, this is a thinly veiled political rant.  And I'm not particularly good at political rants, so I should wrap it up. I was raised to believe in things like service, equity, family, accountability, tolerance and justice.  If you lament the state of the world we live in, be very scared and not because Obama/Bush sucks.  Be scared because it points to a much larger problem: the sad truth is that when it comes to politics (and culture for that matter), we often get exactly what we ask for.  And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

"I Ain't Got No Home:
By:  Woody Guthrie
I ain't got no home, I'm just a-roamin' 'round,
Just a wandrin' worker, I go from town to town.
And the police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.
A hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod;
Rich man took my home and drove me from my door
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.
My crops I lay into the banker's store.
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.
I been working, mister, since the day I was born
Now I worry all the time like I never did before
'Cause I ain't got no home in this world anymore
This world is such a great and a funny place to be;
Oh, the gamblin' man is rich an' the workin' man is poor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

More great song writing here.

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