From Woody Guthrie’s Introduction to Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People.
Now, I might be a little haywired, but I ain’t no big hand to like a song because it’s pretty, or because it’s fancy, or done up with a big smile and a pink ribbon, I’m a man to like songs that ain’t sung too good. Big hand to sing songs that ain’t really much account. I mean, you know, talking about good music, and fancy runs, and expert music. I like songs, by George, that’s sung by folks that ain’t musicians, and ain’t able to read music, don’t know one note from another’n, and — say something that amounts to something. That a way you can say what you got to say just singing it and if you use the same dern tune, or change it around twice, and turn it upside down, why that still don’t amount to a dern, you have spoke what you had to speak, and if folks don’t like the music, well, you can still pass better than some political speakers.
But it just so happens that these songs here, they’re pretty, they’re easy, they got something to say, and they say it in a way you can understand, and if you go off somwhere and change ‘em arround a bit, well, that don’t hurt nothin’. Maybe you got a new song. You have, if you said what you really had to say — about how the old world looks to you, or how it ought to be fixed.
Hells bells, I’m a going to fool around here and make a song writer out of you. — No, I couldn’t do that — wouldn’t do it if I could. I ruther have you just like you are. You are a songbird right this minute. Today you’re a better songbird than you was yesterday, ‘cause you know a little bit more, you seen a little bit more, and all you got to do is just park yourself under a shade tree, or maybe at a desk, if you still got a desk, and haul off and write down some way you think this old world could be fixed so’s it would be twice as level and half as steep, and take the knocks out of it, and grind the valves, and tighten the rods, and take up the bearings, and put a boot in the casing, and make the whole trip a little bit smoother, and a little bit more like a trip instead of a trap.
It wouldn’t have to be fancy words. It wouldn’t have to be a fancy tune. The fancier it is the worse it is. The plainer it is the easier it is, and the easier it is, the better it is — and the words don’t even have to be spelt right.
You can write it down with the stub of a burnt match, or with an old chewed up penny pencil, on the back of a sack, or on the edge of a almanac, or you could pitch in and write your walls full of your own songs. They don’t even have to rhyme to suit me. If they don’t rhyme a tall, well. then it’s prose, and all of the college boys will study on it for a couple of hundred years, and because they cain’t make heads nor tails of it, they’ll swear you’re a natural born song writer, maybe call you a natural born genius.
This book is songs like that. If you’re too highbrow for that, you can take your pants and go home right now, but please leave the book — some people might want to look through it.
If you’re so rich that you look down on these kind of songs, that’s a dam good sign you’re standing on your head, and I would suggest that you leave your pocketbook and wife and ice box and dog and catch out east on a west bound freight, and rattle around over this United States for a year or so, and meet and see and get to knowing the people… It’s you wax dummies in the glass cases I’m a roasting. If you are one, you know it already, I don’t have to sing it to you, and I don’t have to preach it to you, your own song is in your own heart, and the reason you’re so damn mixed up and sad, and high tempered and high strung, it’s because that song is always a ringing in your own ears — and it’s your own song, you made it up, you added a verse here, and a verse yonder, and a word now, and a word then — till — you don’t need a book a tellin’ about songs, yours is already ringing and singing in your ears.
The only trouble is with you, you hold it back, you hide it, you keep it down, you kick it down, you sing over it, and under it… and you get lost in so called arts and sciences and all sorts of high fangled stuff like “intellect" and "inspiration" and "religion" and "business" and "reputation" and "pride" and "me" — and you say, talk, live, breathe, and exercise everything in the world, except that real old song that’s in your heart.
Thank heaven, one day we’ll all find out that all of our songs was just little notes in a great big song, and when we do, the rich will disappear like the morning fog, and the poor will vanish like a drunkard’s dream — and we’ll all be one big happy family, waking up with the chickens, chickens we don’t owe nothing on, and a skipping through the morning dew, just as far as you want to skip.