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

Number of Discs
Release Date
Various Artists
CD / Album
Label / Studio
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings


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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. ~ William Ruhlmann

1) Freedom Road - Josh White (02:20)
2) Talking Sailor Blues - Woody Guthrie (03:03)
3) Ballad of October 16 - Almanac Singers (02:49)
4) Billy Boy - Almanac Singers (02:23)
5) Plow Under - Almanac Singers / Pete Seeger (02:27)
6) I'm Gonna Put My Name Down - Tom Glazer (03:04)
7) What Are We Waiting On (What Are We Waiting For) - Woody Guthrie (02:09)
8) Citizen C.I.O. - Tom Glazer / Union Boys / Josh White (02:31)
9) Sinking of the Reuben James - Woody Guthrie (03:01)
10) You Better Get Ready - Burl Ives / Union Boys (02:32)
11) If You Want to Do Your Part - Lead Belly (02:56)
12) Move into Germany - Brownie McGhee / Sonny Terry / Union Boys (03:00)
13) So Long (It's Been Good to Know You) - Woody Guthrie (02:47)
14) Martins and the Coys - Union Boys (03:01)
15) Mr. Hitler - Lead Belly (04:34)
16) Sally Don't You Grieve - Woody Guthrie / Cisco Houston (02:25)
17) Jimmy Longhi Story - Vincent "Jimmy" Longhi (06:05)
18) When the Yanks Go Marching In - Woody Guthrie / Cisco Houston / Sonny Terry (02:46)
19) Round and Round Hitler's Grave - Almanac Singers (01:10)
20) The Fuhrer - Josh White (03:10)
21) Miss Pavlichencko - Woody Guthrie (02:30)
22) National Defense Blues - Dupree / Lead Belly / Brownie McGhee / Sonny Terry / Champion Jack Dupree (03:14)
23) Gee but I Want to Go Home - Lead Belly (01:47)
24) Looking for a Home - Pete Seeger (03:10)
25) Now That's It's All Over - Pete Seeger (02:09)

That's Why We're Marching: WWII and the American Folk Song Movement
Ryko Distribution
Main Format
Explicit Lyrics
Keyword Index
That's Why We're Marching: WWII and the American Folk Song Movement | Various Artists