TALKING UN-AMERICAN BLUES

(IRWIN SILBER/BETTY SANDERS) (1952)

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"I had pictured myself as defending civil liberties," said Illinois' Senator Paul Douglas last week. "And yet," he added, "there is a Communist danger in this country." Douglas summed up the feelings of the other conscientious and sorely troubled men.
For more than two weeks of agonized soul-searching, the Senate had grappled with a problem which the U.S. had never squarely met. And yet, as Douglas pointed out, the country faced an undeniable danger from U.S. Communists who owed their first allegiance to a foreign enemy. In the end, the Senate came down to a debate over two specific ways of holding the danger in check.
One bill bore the name of Nevada's portly Pat McCarran. Actually it had started out as a catchall of five different anti-Communist measures. McCarran had gone to work with scissors and paste, put in a few ideas of his own and laid the result before the Senate. His omnibus bill was a clumsy looking vehicle. Nevertheless it moved. It moved along the path of recent court opinions which found Communism a clear and present danger, branded the basic aims of Communism as criminal in intent. It was aimed at Communists and their organizations and fronts, requiring them to register the names of their members and label their propaganda for what it was. President Truman said that he would veto it as an infringement of civil rights.
Burying their reservations, the McCarran camp decided to accept the Kilgore bill with a few minor refinements. Paul Douglas and other Administration Senators, with a second, over-the-shoulder look at the Communist danger, decided to accept McCarran's measures. The two bills were put together in a bigger-than-ever omnibus bill and passed by an overwhelming 70 to 7 vote.

TIME, Sep 25, 1950

Lyrics as recorded by BETTY SANDERS, vocal, with JERRY SILVERMAN, g, Hootenanny Records (Hoot 103-B), c. 9 Jun 1952 (re-released on Folkways FN-2513)
reprinted in RONALD D. COHEN & DAVE SAMUELSON, Songs For Political Action (accompanying book), Bear Family Records, 1996, p. 201

Early one morning got an invitation
To help Congress out in an investigation;
Man came around a-knocking at my door,
Give me a paper that said what for.
Subpoena, looking for Un-Americans;
Look in the mirror.

Now if you want an invite, here' s what to do,
You got to talk with peace, sing it too;
Visit your neighbors, hear what they say,
Before you know it, you're on your way.
Fare paid! Ride in style. First class!

Well, you brush your hair and you dress real pretty,
You got a date with the Un-American Committee;
Take the stand, they swear you in,
Old Man Wood is wearing a grin.
He thinks he's got you, got a short memory.
Can't recall what happened when they stuck a
Union label on his cantankerous investigation.

"Are you now, or have ever been,
Were you ever sympathetic or interested in...
When did you start, how long did it last,
Tell us all about your interesting past.
Answer yes or no."

"Did you go to a meeting, did you sign a petition,
Did you ever hold an executive position?
Did you make a speech, carry a card,
Did you ever hold a conference in your back yard?"
Fifth Amendment!

Now they were asking questions, but we wouldn't buy it,
Like those union brothers did it, it was time for us to try it;
Added up the facts and the figures historical,
Asked them a question which sounds a bit rhetorical.
Mister Wood -- Are you now or have you ever been a bastard?
You don't have to answer that question if you think
It might tend to incriminate you.

Now Mister Wood, get out of your rut,
Do you swear to tell the truth and nothin' but?
Well, Wood said he would, but we knew he wouldn't
And even if he would, well he damn well couldn't,
But that's Congress for you,
Week in, week out, weak all over.

Now Wood couldn't rest on his laurels,
He tried his best to corrupt our morals;
He talked about Philbrick, Budenz too,
"They're getting theirs, how about you?"

Now I like chicken, I like duck
And I don't object to making a buck.
But I ain't got wings and sure can't fly,
But there's one bird that I won't buy:
That's Stoolpigeon! I'm strictly in the market for doves of peace!

It is known that birds of a feather
Have a habit of flockin' together.
So listen, McCarran, Wood and the rest,
You can't use us to feather your nest.
That's strictly for birds!

So here's the moral without a doubt,
If you want to be free, you've got to sing out.
Sing it loud, sing it atrong,
People are singing a freedom song!
That's my music! Solid with a freedom beat!
So keep singing, and keep fighting!

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