[I encourage everyone to check out Woody Guthrie; his two published books – “Bound for Glory” and “House of Earth” and his many songs, particularly the classic LP “Dustbowl Ballads.”  

He had the truly unique ability to seamlessly meld traditional folk music with his own brand of song writing.  He was a keen observer of human nature and a street poet.  He gave voice to the many thousands of dispossessed persons who suffered through the great depression and the dust bowl.  

His guitar carried the slogan “This Machine Kills Fascists” and he continues to do so through the power of his words.  He is sometimes portrayed as a hillbilly caricature – a stereotype he often encouraged – but he was actually very well read, voraciously curious, and hyper actively inventive.  jbm 2/16/2017]

Photo by Al Aumuller.

“Vigilante Man”
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I been hearin’ his name all over the land.

Well, what is a vigilante man?
Tell me, what is a vigilante man?
Has he got a gun and a club in his hand?
Is that is a vigilante man?

Rainy night down in the engine house,
Sleepin’ just as still as a mouse,
Man come along an’ he chased us out in the rain.
Was that a vigilante man?

Stormy days we passed the time away,
Sleepin’ in some good warm place.
Man come along an’ we give him a little race.
Was that a vigilante man?

Preacher Casey was just a workin’ man,
And he said, “Unite all you working men.”
Killed him in the river some strange man.
Was that a vigilante man?

Oh, why does a vigilante man,
Why does a vigilante man
Carry that sawed-off shot-gun in his hand?
Would he shoot his brother and sister down?

I rambled ’round from town to town,
I rambled ’round from town to town,
And they herded us around like a wild herd of cattle.
Was that the vigilante men?

Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I’ve heard his name all over this land.

 

© Copyright 1960 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

The song from Dustbowl Ballads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-tXikT2DZA
Woody Guthrie Website:  http://www.woodyguthrie.org
Smithsonian Folkways:  http://www.folkways.si.edu
The Guthrie Center (home of the Guthrie Foundation):  https://guthriecenter.org/
Recommended reading:  “Woody Guthrie: A Life” by Joe Klein

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