The 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth is drawing near this month, and these two little tunes provide some interesting perspective on his political and religious views.
The first is classic Woody from the California days, and like the songs of the IWW troubadour, Joe Hill, it satirizes the contrast between the teachings of the Jesus of the Greek Testament and the practices and political views of many Christians during the Depression of the 30s:
When Jesus come to town, all the working folks aroundThere's a YouTube of Woody himself singing this song at the bottom of the diary.
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky
This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.
A later tune was never recorded by Woody, but is part of the the collection of songs recorded by the British folk singer, Billy Bragg, at the request of Woody's daughter. It likely comes from a later period when Woody is living in New York in the McCarthy period and suffering from the Huntington's Chorea that would kill him.
Let's have Christ our PresidentCan you imagine? A third party campaign with Jesus as the write-in, all serving as a protest vote against the regular politicians? That seems to have been Woody's idea.
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That you call the Nazarene
The only way we can ever beat
These crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in
O It's Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and a pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring
Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars
But with the Carpenter on the seat
Way up in the Capital town
The USA would be on the way
Bragg's version of the song can be found at the bottom of the diary.