Woody Guthrie, yup, the Folk Singer, & Fred Trump. Listen Up. It's Labor Day Weekend.

The last of The Weavers, Fred Hellerman, died on Thursday. To honor him and the musical tradition which supported the American Labor Movement, here is the story of one recently rediscovered song.

The song is by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, who inspired Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Guthrie's best known song is This Land is Your Land (this land is my land).

Woody Guthrie inspired Dylan and Springsteen.

In 1950, Guthrie, recently in the Merchant Marines, moved to Beach Haven, a property in Brooklyn built to accommodate people like him, vets returning from World War II. The developer and landlord was Fred Trump, father of the Republican candidate.

Trump would later be investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 1954 for profiteering from public contracts, not least by overestimating his Beach Haven building charges to the tune of $3.7 million, but that's another story.

Guthrie lived in that apartment for 2 years and witnessed the racist policies that the real estate developer used to exclude blacks from his property. His landlord just wouldn't rent to people of color.

Here are the song lyrics Guthrie wrote to denounce "old man Trump":

I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he dragged
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project.
Beach Haven ain't my home!
I just cain't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain't my home!

Fred Trump and his son would be investigated by the government, not just for profiteering, but for racist leasing practices. The New York Times recently wrote about this on its front page.'No Vacancies' for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias'

Will Kaufman, the professor of American literature and culture at a British university who unearthed this song, spoke about Donald Trump's own involvement in the Trump Organization's racist practices, during a telephone interview with The Washington Post, "He picked up the mantle and ran with it with his father at his side. That's why people are interested in this I think." The Times and The Washington Post also confirmed Donald was actively involved in this case.

Given the fact that the "racial hate" stirred up by "Old Man Trump" is still in the news, perhaps these lyrics too deserve attention...especially on Labor Day weekend.

Here's a link to the NPR audio coverage.

Woodie Guthrie knew Fred Trump and sang about it.

Happy Labor Day.


September 3, 2016

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