Short Cuts America: il blog di Arnaldo Testi

Politica e storia degli Stati Uniti

Pete Seeger va alla guerra: Dear Mr. President (1942)

Dopo l’invasione nazista dell’Unione Sovietica, dopo l’attacco giapponese a Pearl Harbor, dopo l’adesione dei sindacati americani (compresi quelli vicini al partito comunista) allo sforzo bellico – anche Pete Seeger va alla guerra. Alla “buona guerra”?

Nel febbraio 1942 registra questo talking blues, parte di un album degli Almanac Singers, un gruppo di cui fa parte anche Woody Guthrie. Ma qui Pete fa tutto da solo, voce, parole e musica – e dice le sue ragioni, scrivendo al presidente Roosevelt.

Pete Seeger, Dear Mr. President, Keynote Album 111, 1942.

  • Dear Mr. President, I set me down
  • To send you greetings from my home town
  • And send you best wishes from all the friends I know
  • In Texas, Alabama, Ohio
  • And affiliated places. Brooklyn, Mississippi.
  • I’m an ordinary guy, worked most of my life
  • Sometime I’ll settle down with my kids and wife
  • And I like to see a movie or take a little drink
  • And I like being free to say what I think
,
  • Sorta runs in the family…
  • My grandpa crossed the ocean for the same reason.
  • Now, I hate Hitler and I can tell you why
  • He’s caused lots of good folks to suffer and die
.
  • He’s got a way of shovin’ folks around
,
  • I figure it’s about time we slapped him down,
  • Give him a dose of his own medicine…
  • Lead poisoning.
  • Now, Mr. President
  • We haven’t always agreed in the past, I know,
  • But that ain’t at all important now
,
  • What is important is what we got to do
,
  • We got to lick Mr. Hitler, and until we do
  • Other things can wait.
  • 
In other words, first we’ve got a skunk to skin.
  • War means overtime and higher prices,
  • But we’re all willing to make sacrifices
,
  • Hell, I’d even stop fightin’ with my mother-in-law,
  • ‘Cause we need her too, to win the war…
  • Old battle-axe.
  • Now, as I think of our great land,
  • Of the cities and towns and farming land
,
  • There’s so many good people working every day,
  • 
I know it ain’t perfect but it will be someday,
  • Just give us a little time.
  • This is the reason that I want to fight
,
  • Not ’cause everything’s perfect or everything’s right.
  • 
No, it’s just the opposite: I’m fightin’ because
  • 
I want a better America and better laws
,
  • And better homes and jobs and schools
  • 
And no more Jim Crow, and no more rules, like
  • “You can’t ride on this train ’cause you’re a Negro.”
  • “You can’t live here ’cause you’re a Jew.”
  • “You can’t work here ’cause you’re a union man.”
  • There’s a line keeps running through my head,
  • I think it was something Joe Louis once said,
  • Said, “There’s a lot of things wrong,
  • But Hitler won’t help ’em.”
  • Now, Mr. President
  • You’re commander-in-chief of our armed forces
,
  • The ships and the planes and the tanks and the horses.
  • I guess you know best just where I can fight,
  • All I want to be is situated right
…
  • To do the most damage.
  • I never was one to try and shirk
,
  • And let the other fellow do all of the work.
  • So when the time comes, I’ll be on hand
  • And I can make good use of these two hands.
  • Quit playing this banjo around with the boys,
  • And exchange it for something that makes more noise.
  • So, Mr. President
  • We got this one big job to do,
  • That’s lick Mr. Hitler and when we’re through
  • Let no one else ever take his place
  • To trample down the human race.
  • So what I want is you to give me a gun
  • So we can hurry up and get the job done.

Pete & the First Lady, 1944. Pete Seeger sings at the opening of the Washington labor canteen. Eleanor Roosevelt is seated between two servicemen, smiling.

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Categories: cultura di massa, Cultura politica, Labor movement

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