Short Cuts America: il blog di Arnaldo Testi

Politica e storia degli Stati Uniti

Woody Sez: Dear Mrs. Roosevelt, a Franklin piaceva Stalin (1948)

19editorial-superJumboWoody Guthrie piange la morte di Roosevelt (avrà avuto in mente Whitman che piange Lincoln, O capitano mio capitano?). Lo fa – secondo il sito ufficiale woodyguthrie.org (qui) – tre anni dopo il luttuoso evento, nel 1948, un po’ a freddo dunque e probabilmente per ragioni strettamente di politique du jour. Lo fa fingendo di scrivere una lettera a “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt”, a Eleanor, invitando lei a non piangere: i resti mortali di Franklin sono stati sepolti, dice, ma la sua buona opera riempie il cielo.

Poi di Roosevelt Woody ripercorre la vita, a modo suo, con toni variabili, che a me sembrano essere almeno tre. C’è il tono presidenzial-devozionale: la prima parte su infanzia e giovinezza ricorda gli opuscoli patriottici edificanti, diffusi all’alba della nazione, sull’infanzia e la prima giovinezza del padre della patria, George Washington.

C’è il tono guthriano più giusto e popolare, il bel ritornello da folk song: che sia nato è stata una fortuna per il mondo. E soprattutto la grande storia vista from the bottom up: Roosevelt mi ha aiutato a costruire il sindacato, mi ha insegnato a parlare, era uno storpio ma ha insegnato alla mia anima a camminare [storpio, cripple, lo dice lui, eh, è una citazione, non licenziatemi per questo].

He helped to build my union hall, he learned me how to talk;
I could see he was a cripple but he learned my soul to walk

E infine c’è il tono politico, da comunista del vecchio fronte anti-fascista, in effetti di un fronte anti-fascista andato in frantumi. Siamo nel 1948, come s’è visto, il sogno è finito, ora c’è la Guerra fredda e anche Woody la combatte, si schiera. Degli anti-fascisti di ieri ci sono quelli buoni e quelli cattivi, un po’ con il senno di poi e un po’ no: a Franklin, dice, non piaceva Churchill e gliel’ha detto in faccia, non piaceva DeGaulle e neanche Chiang Kai Shek – Stalin sì che era il suo tipo d’uomo.

Woody non li nomina ma sembra evidente che, ricordando queste cose in quell’anno di elezioni presidenziali, intenda attaccare Truman, di Roosevelt erede indegno e traditore in quanto cold warrior anti-sovietico – e fare invece il tifo per Henry Wallace, il candidato di sinistra (del Progressive Party) di cui sostiene la campagna elettorale.

I sent him ‘cross that ocean to Yalta and to Tehran;
He didn’t like Churchill very much and told him man to man;

He said he didn’t like DeGaulle, nor no Chiang Kai Shek;
Shook hands with Joseph Stalin, says: “There’s a man I like!”

La canzone è rimasta sconosciuta ai più, finché non è stata ripresa almeno una volta da Bob Dylan. E comunque anche Dylan l’ha ripresa solo in parte. E’ accaduto in occasione del concerto tributo a Guthrie (qui), a Carnegie Hall nel 1968, ed è questa la versione che conoscevo. Per motivi che non vi sto a dire sono andato a cercare il testo completo, e questo ho trovato. Tutta la parte su Yalta e Teheran e Stalin è saltata… D’altra parte non si fa così, cioè non si fanno performance selettive anche con la celeberrima “This Land is Your Land”?

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt, don’t hang your head and cry;
His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky; 
This world was lucky to see him born.

He’s born in a money family on that Hudson’s rocky shore;
Outrun every kid a-growin’ up ‘round Hyde Park just for fun;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went away to grade school and wrote back to his folks;
He drew such funny pictures and always pulling a joke;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went on up towards Harvard, he read his books of law;
He loved his trees and horses, loved everything he saw;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He got struck down by fever and it settled in his leg;
He loved the folks that wished him well as everybody did;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He took his office on a crippled leg, he said to one and all:
“You money changin’ racket boys have sure ‘nuff got to fall;”
This world was lucky to see him born,

In senate walls and congress halls he used his gift of tongue
To get you thieves and liars told and put you on the run;
This world was lucky to see him born,

I voted for him for lots o’ jobs, I’d vote his name again;
He tried to find an honest job for every idle man;
This world was lucky to see him born,

He helped to build my union hall, he learned me how to talk;
I could see he was a cripple but he learned my soul to walk;
This world was lucky to see him born.

You Nazis and you fascists tried to boss this world by hate;
He fought my war the union way and the hate gang all got beat;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I sent him ‘cross that ocean to Yalta and to Tehran;
He didn’t like Churchill very much and told him man to man;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He said he didn’t like DeGaulle, nor no Chiang Kai Shek;
Shook hands with Joseph Stalin, says: “There’s a man I like!”
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was torpedoed on my merchant ship the day he took command;
He was hated by my captain, but loved by all ships hands;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was a Gl in my army camp that day he passed away,
And over my shoulder talkin’ I could hear some soldier say:
“This world was lucky to see him born.”

I guess this world was lucky just to see him born;
I know this world was lucky just to see him born;
This world was lucky to see him born.

Categorie:Americanismo, Cultura politica

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