WOODY GUTHRIE

NOTES ABOUT MUSIC (1940s)

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There is a very well known and popular recording on the market these days of some monkey singing the old song, 'Blue Eyes', in which the singer gradually, while he is singing, starts wailing, gulping, and crying. The chorus to 'Blue Eyes' goes:

OH, I'm thinking tonight of my Blue Eyes
Who is sailing far over the sea
Yea, I'm thinking tonight of my Blue Eyes
And I wonder if my Blue Eyes thinks of me.

I, personally, have been singing Blue Eyes ever since I first got started trying to learn how to chord along with myself on the guitar. It ls not as mournful, as squawling, as crying a song, as the record would try to make you think. It is simply sad. I am thinking tonight of somebody, A friend. Somebody gone. Somebody that meant a lot to me. Somebody to walk with and talk with and enjoy life with. It could be a boy, or It could be a girl. The song doesn't say which.

Now, there's another verse of this song that goes:
It would have been better for us both if we'd never
In this wide, wicked world never met
For the pleasures we both knew together
I am sure, love, I never can forget.

I know how I feel lots of times (although I am learning lately to not get it get the best of me): But it seams [SIC] that I have hoped as many hopes and dreamed so many dreams, seen them swept aside by weather, and blown away by men, washed away in my own mistakes, that - - I use to wonder if it wouldn't be better just to haul off and quit hoping. Just protect my own inner brain, my own mind and heart, by drawing it up into a hard knot, and not having any more hopes or dreams at all. Pull in my feelings, and call back all of my sentiments - - - and not let any earthly event move me in either direction, either cause me to hate, to fear, to love, to care, to take sides, to argue the matter at all ---; and, yet, like this song says, there are certain good times, and pleasures that I never can forget, no matter how much I want to, because the pleasures, and the displeasures, the good times and the bad, are really all there is to me.

And these pleasures that you cannot ever forget are the yeast that always starts working in your mind again, and it gets in your thoughts again, and in your eyes again, and then, all at once, no matter what has happened to you, you are building a brand new world again, based and built on the mistakes, the wreck, the hard luck and trouble of the old one.

This song does not pretend to say that anybody hated anybody and they separated on that account. It don't say that. It says we met together and we went together and we hoped together - - and then, because the world was wide and the world was wicked, these hopes were torn down. And that is why, maybe, it would, have, in a sense, been better if we'd never met. . . (Of course, I highly disagree with this kind of thinking - - because no matter how bad the wicked world has hurt you, in the long run, there is something gained, and it is all for the best).

The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine, a working machine, and any song that says, the pleasures I have seen in all of my trouble, are the things I never can get - - - don't worry - - - the human race will sing this way as long as there is a human to race.

The human race is a pretty old place.

Woody Guthrie drawing, 10/17/1946
I CANNOT HELP
BUT LEARN MY MOST
FROM YOU WHO COUNT YOURSELF LEAST
AND CANNOT HELP
BUT FEEL MY BEST WHEN
YOU THAT NEED ME MOST
ASK ME TO HELP
YOU
AND I NEVER DID KNOW
EXACTLY WHY THIS WAS
THAT IS JUST
THE WAY
WE ARE BUILT

I was just saying to Gordon Freisen [SIC], head accordion carrier for his wife, Sis Cunningham, of the Almanac Singers, that these old moanful songs, on a radio dial, would sound almost out of place, judging from the other kinds of noise and music all around the dial.

It is like something coming fron the deepest part of your conscience, like a sad reminder that a whistle, a song, whether it comes from a bird or a steamboat, sounds a whole lot different to some people than it does to others,

To a soda jerker on a fast college corner, a song, or a program of songs like this, might cause him and his customers to look up and ask themselves 'what is wrong with the radio?' But, even there, in just such a crowd, if this kind of music was properly understood, everybody would get a lot of deep enjoyment out of listening, for a little while. I don't claim this kind of music should drip through the radio speakers all of the time, nor that any particular brand of music should crowd the other kinda out; but certainly, this would sound no more out of life, no more disassociated, no more cut off from experience which is truth, than to hear our soap operas and chewing gum symphonies drifting through the weather-leaking walls of 16,000,000 Negroes in the south, yea, and that many more Browns, Whites, and Red Men, to boot; because, while this old song is going, maybe, to the extreme on the sad and mournful end, it is a fact that it is just as bad, creates a harmful, nervous, insincere, unreal state of mind for you to be hypnotized to the broadway wise-cracky jitterbug stuff. In these times of war against fascism, when we've got to find all of our real strength, all of our real calmness, all of our real honesty in ourselves before we can learn to trust, unite, organize, and work with others, lets try to be sure that we don't laugh at the ones who have cried.

Let me be known as just the man that
told you something you already knew.
3/29/46 NYC

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