Workers of the World Unite! May Day in the Mike Seeger and Broadside Collections

flyer from album FC25202 in the Mike Seeger Collection, Southern Folklife Collection , UNC Chapel HillFor all workers, past, present, and future on this 126th International Workers’ Day we present this promotional flyer for the 1978 Folk Song Festival in Helsinki Finland, found inserted in a LP sleeve (along with miniature sticker versions of the flyer) in the SFC’s Mike Seeger Collection, FC-25202.

The 1978 festival and flyer honored Chilean activist singer-songwriter Victor Jara who was murdered, along with thousands of other victims, by the Chilean Army a day after the military coup September 11, 1973. Jara’s 1969 composition “Plegaria a un Labrador” (“Public Prayer to a worker”) remains a powerful call for solidarity in the struggle for human rights. Hear Jara perform “Plegeria a un Labrador” with his group Quilapayún here.

Open reel tape, FT9374, in the Broadside Collection (20289) includes recordings from a series of 1974 benefit concerts for Chile organized by Phil Ochs in New York City after the death of President Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and countless others. Musicians included Larry Estrige, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and Arlo Guthrie. The latter performed a song dedicated to the life of Victor Jara based on a poem written by Adrian Miller. Listen to that track below:

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And finally on this May Day we would like to leave you with one of Woody Guthrie’s protest ballads, “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” The heartbreaking song memorializes the nameless migrants killed in a plane crash in Los Gatos canyon in 1948. It is sung by Sis Cunningham, recorded on FS5695 in the Broadside Collection (20289).

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This Land Is Your Land

Happy birthday to the United States of America, an institution that turns 234 years old this week. Let’s celebrate with some clips of America’s favorite patriotic folk song, “This Land Is Your Land”.

Here’s the first verse of Woody Guthrie’s original 1944 recording (a verse that would become the chorus in all future versions):

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(clip from SFC CD-654, This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings)

The “As I went walking that ribbon of highway” verse, as sung by Pete Seeger in 1958:

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(clip from SFC CD-2041, American Favorite Ballads)

The “I roamed and rambled” verse, by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1962:

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(clip from SFC FC-4520, Folk Songs of Our Land)

The “When the sun comes shining” verse, sung by Lee Greenwood (the guy who gave us “God Bless the USA”): 

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(clip from SFC CD-3650, American Patriot)

And North Carolina native Mojo Nixon puts a punk rock spin on the frequently dropped “Private Property” verse:

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(clip from SFC CD-1355, Root Hog or Die)

Two Sides of “Pretty Boy Floyd”

PrettyBoyFloyd01On October 22, 1934, the notorious bank robber Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd was gunned down by the FBI on farmland outside of East Liverpool, Ohio. Floyd’s decade long career of daring bank robberies and prison escapes had made him both J. Edgar Hoover’s “Public Enemy No. 1″ and a genuine folk hero, especially amongst his fellow Oklahomans, hard hit by the Depression and with little sympathy for the banks.

One of those fellow Oklahomans was of course Woody Guthrie, who helped burnish Floyd’s posthumous reputation with his 1939 recording “Pretty Boy Floyd”, casting the outlaw as a modern-day Robin Hood. The song would be further popularized through covers by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and the Byrds.

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(Clip from SFC CD-827)

While Guthrie’s song is certainly the most well known “Pretty Boy Floyd”, the first may have been the “Pretty Boy Floyd” written by Bob Miller and recorded by Ray Whitley on October 27, 1934, less than a week after Floyd was killed. As you can hear from the clip below, it puts the focus less on the outlaw’s humanitarian pursuits and more on his cross country string of homicides.

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(Clip from SFC 78-9780)