Various Artists

That's Why We're Marching: WWII and the American Folk Song Movement

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Fifteen of the 25 tracks on this 71-minute disc are previously unreleased and the rest are not easily available. That's no reflection on their quality, but it is a clue to their limited typicality: these are songs written and recorded in the first half of the 1940s in response to world events before and during World War II; after the war, they dated fast. In fact, some of them became obsolete even before the U.S. entered the war. The earliest songs are three tracks by the Almanac Singers (who included Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and others) from the spring of 1941 decrying the actions of the Franklin Roosevelt Administration that inclined the country toward the war. When the songs were recorded, they expressed a commonly held sentiment. But only a couple of months later, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the singers themselves repudiated their sentiments, and another six months later, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they seemed positively treasonous. The rest of the album's songs are patriotic, pro-war expressions of the need to overcome Hitler and win the war. But even amid such mainstream sentiments, the left-wing folksingers slip in lyrics in support of unions and civil rights, more long-standing views for them. They also find space to praise U.S. ally the Soviet Union in songs that became politically unacceptable after the war. Fifty years later, of course, all of this makes for a musical, historical curiosity, and a listener's primary interest is likely to be the opportunity to hear previously unissued music by Guthrie, Seeger, Leadbelly, Josh White, Burl Ives, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and a host of other excellent folksingers.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:20 Amazon
2 3:03 Amazon
3 2:49 Amazon
4 2:23 Amazon
5 2:27 Amazon
6 3:04 Amazon
7 2:09 Amazon
8 2:31 Amazon
9 3:01 Amazon
10 2:32 Amazon
11 2:56 Amazon
12 3:00 Amazon
13 2:47 Amazon
14 3:01 Amazon
15 4:34
16 2:25 Amazon
6:05 Amazon
18 2:46 Amazon
19 1:10 Amazon
20 3:10 Amazon
21 2:30 Amazon
22 3:14 Amazon
23 1:47
3:10 Amazon
25 2:09 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick