RICHARD POLENBERG: Welcome back, everyone. We left Woody Guthrie at the end of World War II, and writing a song about the 1913 Michigan disaster. Sad to say, he did not have many more creative years left in him. And it's a testament, I think, to his creative drive that he accomplished as much as he did, given the adversity he faced.
Not just because of the new political situation in the United States after the war, but also because of personal tragedies as we'll see. The fire that destroyed one of his loved ones, and the Huntington's disease that eventually destroyed him. But before talking about sad things, let's turn to some happier ones, the children's songs that he loved to write and sing.
In November 1945, while on furlough, Woody and Marjorie Mazia, as I mentioned, were married. He was discharged the following January, and they set up house in Brooklyn's Coney Island with their three-year-old daughter, Kathy Ann, whom woody nicknamed Stack Of Bones. He wrote many songs for her, many of them I'm sure you know.
"Take Me Riding In The Car-Car." Or "Clean, Oh Clean." There's a great line, you know, mama, mama, come wash my face, and make it nice and clean-o. Daddy, oh daddy, come wash my feet. And then suddenly the verse, scrub, scrub, scrubbidy, and a rub-dub dubbity. Scrub, Scrub, scrubbity. And it's just such a perfect children's song.
And as Joe Klein in his biography of Woody Guthrie points out, the great thing about Guthrie's children's songs is that there was no condescension. These were not songs that an adult was writing for a child to sing, so to speak. They were written, really, with a child's voice. He made his first recording of children's songs from Moe Asch.
And in the accompanying booklet, Woody wrote "I don't want the kids to be grown up. I want the grown folks to be kids." And he wrote dozens of children's songs. I actually was going to sing one, but the time is running on. So let's do one of the songs, "Dance A Little Longer," that Woody wrote. And it's a great honor for me to introduce Jan Nigro. Many of you know Jan, there is--
Jan was my guitar teacher for many years. He's a marvelous musician. And his contribution to the musical life of this community is just beyond belief. As you know, many of you know, he is the songwriter for Vitamin L, a wonderful group that involves something like 60 or 70 children, mainly middle school and high school children, every year.
Has them performing all over the country. It's just an honor to be sitting up here next to Jan, and to be able to play along with him. So.
JAN NIGRO: All right. So let's try it from the top. If you know any of these verses, feel free.
[MUSIC PLAYING - "DANCE A LITTLE LONGER"]
(SINGING) Eats and drinks and smokes are gone. Ice on the steps and you can't go home. Hang your things on the peg in the corner. Giggle and wiggle, dance a little longer.
Dance around, dance a little longer. Just got a hold, you just a little longer. Sing and talk, joke a little longer. Just got to hold, just a little longer.
Tonight's the night that the muddle flood comes. Took my house and it took my barn. Drowned my goose and drowned my gander, that's what I got a dance a little longer.
Dance around, dance a little longer. Just got to hold, just a little longer. Sing and talk, joke a little longer. Just got to hold you, just a little longer.
Lighting set my place on fire, thunder shook my flooring boards. Wild wind come along and stole my lumber, that's why I got a dance a little longer. Dance around, dance a little longer. Just got to hold you, just a little longer. Sing and talk, joke a little longer. Just going to hold you, just a little longer.
Tied my bicycle up to a post, and it got stole by a graveyard ghost. He won't bring it back till you kiss me stronger. That's why I got to dance a little longer. Dance around, dance for a little longer, just got to hold you, just a little longer. Sing and talk, joke a little longer. Just going to hold you, just a little bit longer.
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Join historian Richard Polenberg in a lecture and concert of the life and songs of Woody Guthrie.
This video is part 10 of 17 in the Woody Guthrie: His Life, Times, and Music series.