Tag Archives: folk song

Trump Is Working On A Building

Super-Classy Un-buh-leev-able Amazing Failure

Donald Trump's hair is just so super-great.
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.

Remember when Google set up search results for “miserable failure” to link to George W. Bush? Apparently that was called a “Google Bomb” and miserable failure isn’t linked to Bush any more. But don’t you think there’s another miserable failure lurking around these days? Or maybe an amazing failure? Or super-classy failure? Or unbelievable failure? Yes? Me too. So I wrote a song about lumpy bag of moldy clementines Donald Trump. Have a listen:

Woody and the Carter Family

Now, you may notice, if you’re familiar with old folk tunes, that this new song I wrote about Trump is very similar to the Carter Family song I’m Working on a Building. There’s a few very good reasons for that.

First is, it’s one of my favorite tunes. I play it often and, so, it pops up in my head a lot at random times during the day.

Second, it has some good phrases that I figured I could update to be relevant about today. That’s the best thing to do when writing a folk song. Find an old one that you like, that has a catchy melody and an interesting message and then replace a few words to make it relatable to something currently in the news or your life. I barely even had to change the repeating chorus because Trump does work on buildings. Only thing different is that instead of building a house of good and a structure of hope and faith, he bankrupts everyone and everything he comes in contact with.

Like Father Like Son

Trump and his father Fred
Two severely balding orange men standing close together.

Now, the last reason, and maybe the reason that got me writing this new song is closely linked to the idea of creating new songs by rewriting old ones. Last week I was thinking a lot about Donald Trump because of the Republican National Convention and I remembered a news article I read about how Woody Guthrie had written a song about Trump’s crooked landlord father Fred Trump (read all about him here). So I went in search of that article to listen to the song because I thought maybe I could update it to be about Donald.

Only problem is, when I found the article, it turns out Woody didn’t so much write a song about Fred Trump, he just maybe reworked a verse of his tune I Ain’t Got No Home. His “song” about Fred Trump amounts to little more than a few scribbled ideas in his notebook. Not much for me to use. Plus, Woody’s song I Ain’t Got No Home was already a rewrite of the Carter Family song Can’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. Do you see where this is headed?

Woody took a lot of ideas from Carter Family tunes (and from a lot of other people) and that’s something I picked up on really fast when I started writing my own songs. I didn’t have to try and come up with something completely new and different. I could just update old songs to fit my times and the troubles and triumphs I saw around me. So that’s what I did with I’m Working on a Building.

But that’s STEALING

Yeah, it probably is. I admit that. Although, folk music (and maybe most music) is all stolen. Every new song rests on the shoulders of something that came before it. You might go as far to say that everything rests on the shoulders of what went before it. As we move into the future the past is what we have to stand on. Forgetting that, you fall into a pit of nothing and may never take another step in any direction. I guess it’s only really stealing if you take complete credit for all the words in a song and say all the ideas were yours alone and no one  ever did anything like you ever before. No one does that, though, right?

New Orleans

Songs About America Week

Last song of the week. This one is called New Orleans, or I was born in New Orleans. Either way, it’s a pretty close approximation of the song Portland Town, which I first heard done by Derroll Adams on the record The Ramblin’ Boys, which he recorded with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

Map of New Orleans

New Orleans was written and recorded way back in 2006. I was really into imitating Ramblin’ Jack as close as I could back then. But Ramblin’ Jack is still alive and there’s not many people that could imitate him exactly. Bob Dylan tried and couldn’t. I tried too and couldn’t. I don’t talk that much.

So I changed the words of that Derroll Adams song because Portland just ain’t what it used to be when that song was first recorded and New Orleans ain’t what it used to be when I recorded this song.

I’m pretty sure I only ever played this out live one time. Probably at the Grafton open mic that I was frequenting back then. When I was still figuring out how to sing and how to play and how to make sense up on stage. I’m slowly getting back to that point now. Went to Gallery Cabaret again on Thursday night to try out 3 more new songs: Lawd Almighty, Mister Mayor Says, and Pray to your Lord. Went pretty well. Lawd Almighty I’d never played out before and it went a lot better than I ever thought it could’ve. But I was in a religious way that night.

Anyway…on to next week. I got a song to write for Monday and a theme to come up with. See ya…