Text by Bruce Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery, June 9th, 2022) – Photo by Al Aumuller (New York World-Telegram and the Sun)
“Pastures of Plenty” written by Woody Guthrie
It’s a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed
My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road
Out of your Dust Bowl and Westward we rolled
And your deserts were hot and your mountains were cold
I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
I slept on the ground in the light of the moon
On the edge of the city you’ll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind
California, Arizona, I harvest your crops
Well its North up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine
Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down
Every state in the Union us migrants have been
We’ll work in this fight and we’ll fight till we win
It’s always we rambled, that river and I
All along your green valley, I will work till I die
My land I’ll defend with my life if it be
Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free
When Bob Dylan came to New York in 1961, his main goal was to meet his idol Woody Guthrie. He did visit Mr. Guthrie in the hospital, being bedridden due to having Huntington’s disease and sang at his bedside.
Woody Guthrie wrote hundreds of songs, his themes focused on American socialism, anti-fascism and the unjust treatment of the common (hu)man. After becoming a Bob Dylan fan-addict in the late sixties, I discovered the songs of Woody Guthrie and have been a longtime fan of his as well.
There have been a number of great Woody Guthrie tribute albums and concerts through the years. I especially like Bruce Springsteen’s version of Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home” from one of those tribute albums. There is also a great record by Wilco and Billy Bragg in which they take lyrics written by Mr. Guthrie and put them to music. The record is called Mermaid Avenue and I would highly recommend it.
I often read the lyrics by greats like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter, as a source of inspiration. They often paint a picture of America which only exists in the minds of those who see the big picture, the promises of a better life which many of us still hope to receive before we pass on.