Richard reuss viewed "Dear Mr. President" as the "direct antithesis of 'Songs for John Doe.'" Seeger's talking blues that opens the album offers an olive branch to the Roosevelts....
ORIGINAL ISSUE: "DEAR MR. PRESIDENT," Keynote K-305-A (KEYNOTE ALBUM 111), 1942.
[PETE SEEGER, solo vocal]
Dear Mr. President, I sat me down
To send you greetings from my home town
And send you best wishes from all the friends I know
In Texas, Alabama, and Ohio and unaffiliated.
I'm an ordinary guy, worked most of my life
Sometime I'll settle down with my kids and wife
And I like to see a movie, or take a little drink
And I like being free to say what I think
Sorta runs in the family,
My grandpa crossed the ocean for the same reason.
Now, I hate Hitler, and I can tell you why
He's caused lots of good folks to suffer and die
He's got a way of shovin' folks around
I figger it's about time we slapped him down.
Give him a dose of his own medicine. Lead poison!
Now, Mr. President
We haven't always agreed in the past, I know
But that ain't at all important now
What is important is what we got to do
We got to lick Mr. Hitler, and until we do
Other things can wait.
In other words, first we've got a skunk to skin.
War means overtime, and higher prices
But we're all willing to make sacrifices
Hell, I'd even stop fightin' with my mother-in-law
Cause we need her too, to win the war, ol' battle-axe.
Now, as I think of our great land
With its cities, and towns, and farming land
With its so many good people a-working every day
I know it ain't perfect, but it will be someday
Just give us a little time.
This is the reason that I want to fight
Not 'cause everything's perfect, or everything's right
No, it's just the opposite: I'm fightin' because
I want a better America, and better laws
And better homes, and jobs, and schools
And no more Jim Crow, and no more rules, like
"You can't ride on this train 'cause you're a Negro."
"You can't live here 'cause you're a Jew."
"You can't work here 'cause you're a union man."
There's a line keeps runnin' through my head,
I think it was somethin' Joe Louis once said,
Said, "There's a lot of things wrong,
But Hitler won't help 'em."
Now, Mr. President
You're commander-in-chief of our armed forces
The ships and the planes and the tanks and the horses
I guess you know best just where I can fight
All I want to be is situated right
To do the most damage.
I never was one to try and shirk
And let the other fellow do all of the work.
So when the time comes, I'll be on hand
And I can make good use of these two hands.
Quit playing this banjo around with the boys
And exchange it for something that makes more noise.
So, Mr. President
We got this one big job to do,
That's lick Mr. Hitler and when we're through
Let no one else ever take his place
To trample down the human race.
So what I want is you to give me a gun
So we can hurry up and get the job done!