Woody Guthrie is a famous singer-songwriter and folk musician, during the mid-twentieth century.  He is best known for his song “This Land is Your Land.”  Born and raised in Oklahoma, his family was one of the many affected by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  Many of Guthrie’s songs from that era discuss the effects of these horrible storms on the people of the Great Plains.  Like many other “Okies” and Great Plains residents desperate for money, Guthrie headed west looking for a way to support his family left behind at home.

Take a look at the song below and consider the following question:

What is Woody Guthrie suggesting about life for “Dust Bowl refugees”?  What challenges did they face?  What is he saying about American society as a whole?

“Do Re Mi”

Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin’ home every day,
Beatin’ the hot old dusty way to the California line.
‘Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin’ out of that old dust bowl,
They think they’re goin’ to a sugar bowl, but here’s what they find
Now, the police at the port of entry say,
“You’re number fourteen thousand for today.”

Oh, if you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.

You want to buy you a home or a farm, that can’t deal nobody harm,
Or take your vacation by the mountains or sea.
Don’t swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are,
Better take this little tip from me.
‘Cause I look through the want ads every day
But the headlines on the papers always say:

If you ain’t got the do re mi, boys, you ain’t got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.

For more information about Woody Guthrie and his legacy, listen to the recent interview below:

Fresh Air Interview about Woody Guthrie