Henry's Songbook

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Biggest thing man has ever done

  • (The Great Historical Bum)
    Woody Guthrie

    I'm just a lonesome traveler, the great historical bum
    Highly educated, out of history I've come
    I built the Rock of Ages, it was in the year of One
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    I was in the Garden of Eden, that was the year of Two
    Joined the Apple Pickers Union, and I always paid my dues
    I'm the man that signed the contract to raise the Rising Sun
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    I was straw boss on the pyramids, the Tower of Babel, too
    I opened up the ocean, let the migrant children through
    I fought a million battles and I never lost a one
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    I licked the daring Roman, I licked the daring Turk
    Defeated Nero's army, boys, with thirty minutes' work
    I fought a million leaders and I licked them every one
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    I was in the Revolution that set this country free
    Me and a couple o' Indians, we dumped the Boston tea
    I fought the battle of Valley Forge and the battle of Bully Run
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    There was a man across the ocean, I guess you know him well
    His name was Adolph Hitler, God damn his soul to hell
    We kicked him in the panzers and put him on the run
    And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

    As sung by Tom Paxton

    Left out:
    I'd better quit my talking, 'cause I told you all I know
    But please remember, partner, wherever you may go
    The people are building a peaceful world, and when the job is done
    That'll be about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1980:] [Working for the Bonneville Power Administration in 1941, Woody showed] the first real outburst of the messianism - combined with false humility, the idea that any old Okie could write like him - that always had been a tacit part of his work. It's probable that Woody simply was carried away by the incredible flow of songs, the otherworldly surge of words that month. Omniscient images had begun poking their way more forcefully into many of his lyrics ... as well as the unspoken assumption that he could cram the whole country into his songs; the belief - like Whitman's - that he could say what America was. Usually he was more artful about it than in his letter to the Almanacs [quoted here], but he was gradually being overwhelmed by a sense of his own destiny. Sometimes, as in his famous bragging song, "The Great Historical Bum", he exorcised those feelings playfully [...]. The song continued through ten more verses, on up to the Grand Coulee Dam: Woody Guthrie's history of the world. (Klein, Woody Guthrie 197)

    When the attack [on the Soviet Union] came on June 22, [1941,] Woody, for one, began to squeeze savage verses about Hitler into his old songs. He seemed overjoyed to finally be able to hate the man without restraint. In fact, he became obsessed by Hitler, a villain who actually measured up to the level of evil required by Woody's comic-book fantasies of the struggle between the workers and the bosses. (Klein, Woody Guthrie 198)
    [Millard Lampell] wrote a parody that mocked Woody as effectively as Woody had gotten Lampell:

    My name is Woody Guthrie, the great hysterical bum,
    Highly saturated in whiskey, rye and rum.
    I wrote a million pages, but never read a one
    And that's about the biggest thing that Guthrie's ever done.

    (Klein, Woody Guthrie 212)

    There were no more isolationists after [Pearl Harbor], and the Almanacs finally were free to vent their passions. Woody went just about berserk that week, converting all his old songs to a war footing. [...] And there was a new chore for the "Great Historical Bum": [see 'Adolph Hitler' verse above]. (Klein, Woody Guthrie 216)

    [1982:] Bis 1932 wurde Elektrizität im Westen der USA nur von privaten Gesellschaften hergestellt. Ihre Hochspannungsleitungen führten nur in die großen Städte, wo sie hohen Profit erwarteten. Im Zuge des New Deal wurden öffentliche Elektrizitätsgesellschaften gegründet, um auch abgelegene Gebiete versorgen zu können. Die Regierung gründete die Bonneville Power Administration, die eine Serie von Staudämmen im Tal des Columbia bauen sollte. Die privaten Gesellschaften machten eine große Werbekampagne gegen dieses Projekt. Der damals schon bekannte Sänger Woody Guthrie (1912 - 1967) wurde von den öffentlichen Gesellschaften für 30 Tage eingestellt, um Lieder für sie zu schreiben. Daraus entstanden Grand Coulee Dam, The biggest thing that man has ever done und [Roll On, Columbia]. (Liedercircus 48)

Quelle: USA

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aktualisiert am 02.04.2010, 08.09.99