that freedom highway
Nobody can make us turn back
land made for you, me
The other night before she had to go to bed, my grand daughter asked me to sing the ‘Goodnight Song.”
There isn’t a lot of common overall agreement on anything these days.
You might get 73% of the people to agree that the sun rises in the east.
I beleive however that you could get 100% on my inability to sing.
It is odd as I come from a family of noted singers and musicians.
But not me.
Just not musically inclined.
At least from a performance point of view.
I took piano lessons for 3 months when I was in third grade.
Then the teacher had a nervous stroke and had to give up teaching.
Draw your own conclusions from that true episode in my life.
Later on I discovered I have no natural sense of rythym.
I have to count in the gaps of ‘Hail to the Victors Valiant’ or I will stand up in Michigan Stadium and yell ‘HAIL’ all by myself.
I sing good enough for the grand children and that’s good enough for me.
The Good Night Song is usually Good Night Ladies using an arrangement by a folk song trio named the Limeliters.
You might think it hard for 1 person to sing in three part harmony but when you can’t sing, normal rules don’t apply.
Last night I thought of singing Good Night Irene.
Which led down a trip across Mr. Lincoln’s mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone.
I was thinking what exactly were the lyrics to Good Night Irene?
Which, when you think about it, is a dumb question for a song that goes
“Irene, good night, Irene, good night
Good night, Irene, good night, Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams”
In my mind I could hear a version of the song sung by the Irish Rovers.
My Dad loved the Irish Rovers.
My Dad loved the Limeliters too.
Which is why we had their albums in the stacks of records next to the family stereo.
But that wasn’t the version I was thinking of.
I was thinking of a version that I heard on TV when I was a kid.
I can’t remember who was watching with me, but it was a LIVE FROM WOLFTRAP program on PBS featuring Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
The more I thought about the more I wanted to see if I could find and I was off to the Information Super Highway.
I was really hoping to find a video of the concert.
It wasn’t the song I really wanted to hear again.
What was on my mind was a story that Arlo Guthrie told before he sang the song.
Mr. Guthrie related how one time during the depression, his father, Woody Guthrie, was out traveling with his band and found himself both in Chicago and out of money.
Mr. Guthrie told how his father and friends walked into a record company and Woody Guthrie and his band made a recording of ‘Good Night Irene.’
It was so good, the record company offered Woody and the band a contract.
Woody looked them there record company fellers in the eye and said, “No Sir! $50.”
Them there record company fellers were quick to hand over $50 for a contract giving them the rights to recording.
“My Dad and his band walked out with the $50”, said Mr. Guthrie.
And then went to 27 other record companies in Chicago.
Don’t know if its a true story and I don’t care.
Searching YouTube, wonder of wonder, I found a video titled “Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger – Together In Concert (Live) originally aired on PBS on August 23, 1978.”
How I love the world wide web.
I watched the concert again.
As a side note, during my daily ZOOM meeting for work, someone asked what concerts everyone one was watching online, mentioning Elton John and the One World: Together At Home Global Special.
I announced I watched Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger from 1978 on YouTube.
The conversation paused for a second and went back to Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.
As I said, I watched the video but something wasn’t right.
Good Night Irene wasn’t in there.
Nor was another song I remembered.
A song about the folk hero, Reuben Clamso, who defended the New England coast from rogue giant clams.
To this day, at any random moment, I am apt to break out in full voice and the chorus;
Poor old Reuben Clamsoooooooooo
Clamso, boys, Clamso
Poor old Reuben Clamsoooooooooo
Clamso, me boys, Clamsoooooooooooo
Try this if you ever want to get some stares in a mall.
But it wasn’t in the video.
What goes on here I wonder.
Were there other shows?
I looked to the YouTube page.
The user who posted the video wrote;
“I am unsure if this is the complete show or not – I have heard that the original airing was about 90 minutes, and rebroadcasts were cut down. This is the only known version that I am aware of.“
The YouTube version is 70 minutes.
There is 20 minutes of the show I remember watching that is missing.
Further down in the comments was this statement,
“This is the cut-down one. The original airing was live, and they cut a couple of tunes. I remember, as a teenager who lived in the DC area, calling up WETA, the station that aired it, and bitching, and I ended up speaking to the actual guy who edited it. He was really nice, and explained that they had to to cut it down to meet something-or-another that the other stations they distributed to needed. Near as I know, the original never existed outside of the original broadcast.”
This is right up there with Hadley’s Suitcase but another time.
Interesting to the point almost beyond belief.
On a random Saturday night in August when I was 18, I watched this show.
A show that, “Near as I know, the original never existed outside of the original broadcast.”
Somehow it stuck in my brain and apparently though I heard it once, I still sing RUEBEN CLAMSOOOOO.
I have a relative who works at that PBS station in Washington and he is going to hear from me about any possible archives.
From working in TV, I know how often this type of request comes in.
“I was on the BOZO show in 1965. Is it possible that your archives …”
At a TV station?
Let me say here that keeping reels of film and boxes of video tape is nothing like keeping a copy of the daily newspaper but I digress.
And I will reach out to my cousin in DC.
So I watched Arlo and Pete from 1978.
There were lots of other YouTube clips to watch and sing along with.
And I did.
Two in particular.
They were both from another concert at Wolf Trap and again in August but this time in 1993.
In one, Arlo and Pete and family sing, “This land is your land.”
I got chills just listening to the opening chords.
There is so much history behind the song.
There is so much history in the song.
Robert Kennedy was asked once what he would do if elected President.
“Change the National Anthem to This Land is Your Land,” he replied.
For me, that would have put Robert Kennedy up with Thomas Jefferson’s serving ice cream in the White House on my list of worthwhile Presidential acomplishments.
Can you just imagine in it?
Opening a baseball game or a football game with EVERYONE SINGING This Land is Your Land.
Picture an Olympic Medal ceremony where those crazy American’s actually SINGING their National Anthem.
As Big Bill would say, “a consummation devoutly to be wished” but most likely not to be.
I went back to World Wide Web and looked up the complete lyrics to This Land is Your Land.
I came across this verse.
In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me
WAIT ONE MINUTE HERE.
Where did that verse come from.
How had I never seen it before?
Made me think that the ghost of Woody Guthrie came back and added that verse just for today.
My Church just posted a video of how the Cross Pointe Food Bank opened its gates and the cars lined up IN THE SHADOW OF THE STEEPLE for miles.
My wife asked, where do the people without cars go?
The other song I clicked on was Arlo singing Amazing Grace.
I like Amazing Grace.
I like it a lot.
It has kind of become the American Lament De Jure (or is it defacto) for funerals.
Sad to me as I am not sure that a lot the people who sing it understand the Grace they are singing about.
Maybe they do at that.
So Arlo talks about the song and what it means to him.
If you are familiar with Arlo Guthrie half the fun is listening to him just talk.
In this talk about Amazing Grace, Arlo pointed out, back in 1993, how messed up the world was and what a gift that was.
Arlo pointed out that if everything was going well and everyone drove gold plated BMW’s, think how difficult it would be to help someone.
Think how it hard it would be to stand up and make a difference.
Arlo said that with the world so messed up, it was EASY to make a difference.
Again, I had to wonder, did somehow this conversation get recorded and saved to be heard today?
Never in the field of human endeavor can so little be done by so few to help so many.
I tell you one thing, with a 2.2 TRILLON DOLLAR relief package out of the way I NEVER AGAIN WANT TO HEAR SOMEONE ARGUE that the GOVERNMENT can save $4.8 Billion by cutting food stamps.
We ARE the GREATEST COUNTY on EARTH.
Maybe in HISTORY.
LETS PROVE IT!
Near the relief office – I see my people …
Near the relief office – I see MY people!
I don’t want anyone to wonder If this land’s still made for you and me.
And as far as I can do anything about, I will.
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me