DEAR MRS. ROOSEVELT

(WOODY GUTHRIE) (1940s)

FDR & Eleanor Roosevelt, Jan 20, 1941

FDR's body is borne towards the Capitol
enroute to the White House, Apr 14, 1945

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And then Franklin D. Roosevelt came along. The first important figure to actually speak the truth out loud. Saying in a coast-to-coast broadcast that he saw "one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clothed, ill-nourished."

It was Roosevelt who had the guts and honesty to pin the blame for the disaster on the money-changers.

And what's more, once he took office as president, he set out to do something about it.

In lots of schools now, kids don't learn anything about Roosevelt except that he led the country during World War 2. Not many teachers bother to tell that it was Roosevelt's New Deal that brought in unemployment compensation and old-age insurance. Created a federal agency to provide work for the jobless. Put a quarter of a million young people to work planting national forests. Provided relief for sharecroppers and bankrupt small farmers. Raised taxes on the rich and the big corporations.

The poor looked on Roosevelt as a savior. You'd see his picture tacked up on the wall of many a coal miner's house, many a backwoods cabin. For the first time since Lincoln, the poor felt there was somebody in the White House on their side.

When Roosevelt died, people stood around the street-corners stunned and weeping. Perfect strangers spoke to each other, seeking consolation.

Working people saw Franklin D. Roosevelt worthy to be the hero of a ballad. Woody wrote it the way they felt.

Millard Lampell, "about the songs," A Tribute to Woody Guthrie (undated songfolio), TRO Ludlow Music, New York, NY, p. 67.


Lyrics as reprinted in Pete Seeger (ed.), Woody Guthrie Folk Songs, London, 1973, pp. 18-19.
© 1963 Ludlow Music Inc., New York, NY

Song performed by BOB DYLAN and THE BAND, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY, Jan 20, 1968.


Dear Missis Roosevelt, don't hang your head and cry;
His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky; This world was lucky to see him born.

He's born in a money family on that Hudson's rocky shore;
Outrun every kid a-growin' up 'round Hyde Park just for fun;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went away to grade school and wrote back to his folks;
He drew such funny pictures and always pulling a joke;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went on up towards Harvard, he read his books of law;
He loved his trees and horses, loved everything he saw;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He got struck down by fever and it settled in his leg;
He loved the folks that wished him well as everybody did;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He took his office on a crippled leg, he said to one and all:
"You money changin' racket boys have sure 'nuff got to fall;"
This world was lucky to see him born,

In senate walls and congress halls he used his gift of tongue
To get you thieves and liars told and put you on the run;
This world was lucky to see him born,

I voted for him for lots o' jobs, I'd vote his name again;
He tried to find an honest job for every idle man;
This world was lucky to see him born,

He helped to build my union hall, he learned me how to talk;
I could see he was a cripple but he learned my soul to walk;
This world was lucky to see him born.

You Nazis and you fascists tried to boss this world by hate;
He fought my war the union way and the hate gang all got beat;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I sent him 'cross that ocean to Yalta and to Tehran;
He didn't like Churchill very much and told him man to man;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He said he didn't like DeGaulle, nor no Chiang Kai Shek;
Shook hands with Joseph Stalin, says: "There's a man I like!"
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was torpedoed on my merchant ship the day he took command;
He was hated by my captain, but loved by all ships hands;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was a Gl in my army camp that day he passed away,
And over my shoulder talkin' I could hear some soldier say:
"This world was lucky to see him born."

I guess this world was lucky just to see him born;
I know this world was lucky just to see him born;
This world was lucky to see him born.


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