I used to be a Democrat.
It makes me laugh just to write that line, I’ve come such a long way since then. I used to be a Democrat, then the company I worked for caused a huge ugly violent messy labor dispute. I then became the hero of a Woody Guthrie song, beaten, despised, misunderstood, robbed by men with fountain pens.
In 1997, I heard “Mermaid Avenue”, Woody’s songs as interpreted by Wilco and Billy Bragg. I took that CD as my song bible. I always knew Woody’s songs, every schoolkid in America knows “This Land Is Your Land” – not all the verses of course, but we could all sing it. Who knew that Woody was so romantic, so complicated, so damn funny?
From there it was an easy leap to more Woody, aided by my acquaintance with the local I.W.W., the guys you want on your side when the bosses are on your back. I joined a singing union, a laughing union, a fighting union. As I listened and sang, I heard the music I listen to now. Billy and Wilco of course, but Bob Dylan (of course!) is Woody’s son, as much as Arlo. Joe Strummer was surely a new Woody, it turns out he even called himself Woody Mellor in his pre-Clash days. Woody Guthrie is the father of punk rock!
Today, Tom Morello is Woody, as he shreds and shrieks and caresses his guitar, making the sounds of anger and solidarity. Yep, Woody is everywhere, and his children still use music to make a better world.
And me? You might see me on the street and think, that lady looks like a nice ol’ Democrat.