Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Voice of the Terkel

This afternoon,working in the garage, I threw on an old tape that a friend had put together for me. Most of it was from the Weavers: Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger. It took me back to my early days. I remember running out of Church on Sunday, grabbing the keys to my Dad's '49 Ford and jumping in the car to listen to The Voice of the Terkel. Studs Terkel introduced me to a wide range of music that I came to love. Woodie Guthrie, John Jacob Niles, Mahalia Jackson, Hubie Leadbetter (Leadbelly), Jean Redpath, Bill Monroe. Long before the pop acts, Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, Hoyt Axton, folk music in America was defined by the group of people that Terkel played every Sunday and about whom Alan Lomax wrote.

There was a connection to the land in that music, something that is not at all present in most rock and never present in hip-hop. I can not listen to any of that without thinking about the vast expanses of land in the United States and what we have done with it, to it.

I entitled my post about the Delta When the Levee Breaks. Some readers might recognize the music as covered by Led Zeppelin, or even the drum bread as part of the sound track from Kill Bill. You might have to go back to the original blues written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The subject was the Mississippi River flood of 1927 in which was the most disastrous flood in America prior to Hurrican Katrina this year.

According to Wikipedia:

The Mississippi River broke out of its levee system in 145 places and flooded 27,000 square miles or about 16,570,627 acres (70,000 km²). The area was inundated up to a depth of 30 feet (10 m). The flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states.

The flood affected Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Arkansas was hardest hit, with 13% of its territory covered by floodwaters. By May of 1927 the Mississippi River below Memphis, Tennessee reached a width of 60 miles(100 km).

So what has this all to do with the Green Party? I think that we have lost most of that connection to the land. The hip-hop culture is all about urban problem, urban life. But the core of green values is all about sustainability and that is about how we live together with the land. Maybe we should all stop and listen to those who sang folk music before it became popular. When the Levee Breaks

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