This week, activist and folksinger Ryan Harvey released “Old Man Trump,” a new song featuring damning, eerily prescient lyrics that Woody Guthrie wrote more than 60 years ago about Donald Trump’s father, Fred. Tom Morello, who guests on the track along with Ani DiFranco, has filmed a strongly worded video introduction suggesting that Guthrie’s critique applies perfectly to the younger Trump.
“I’m standing up against Old Man Trump,” the guitarist declares. ”When it comes to race relations, he’s like an old-school segregationist. When it comes to foreign policy, he’s like an old-school napalmist. When it comes to women’s issues, he’s like a frat-house rapist. So let’s not elect that guy.”
Guthrie’s words for “Old Man Trump” were unearthed by Will Kaufman, a professor at University of Lancashire in the U.K., during a recent visit to the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the original lyrics, Guthrie called out Fred Trump for racist rental policies. (According to the Village Voice, Trump’s organization was sued by the the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in 1973.) “I suppose Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he stirred up in the bloodpot of human hearts,” Guthrie wrote.
The lyrics eventually made their way into the hands of Harvey, who added a trenchant folk-rock arrangement, complemented by DiFranco’s steel guitar and soaring backing vocals, and Morello’s spirited solo. ”Some say there are two Americas,” Harvey told Rolling Stone in a statement. “I’d say there are a lot more than that. Woody Guthrie’s egalitarian dreams represented a country vastly different from the racially segregated one of Old Man Trump.
“As we push forward today like so many did before to confront oppression, Guthrie’s lyrics serve as a snapshot of ourselves in other moments, and of today, of Americans meeting in the streets, workplaces and tenement buildings that have long served as not only spaces of oppression, but also of struggles for political, social and economic change.”
“Woody Guthrie understood America,” DiFranco said. “He traveled around and got to know America. He loved and served America. How apropos that he should come back from the grave to warn us about one of the greatest threats America has ever seen. This is how fascism happens, people.”
“Old Man Trump” is out now via Firebrand Records, the label co-run by Harvey and Morello. Both artists will appear in Denver on July 23rd at a show protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On August 19th, Morello begins a lengthy tour with Prophets of Rage, a new supergroup featuring his Rage Against the Machine bandmates Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk along with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real.