Morecambe Bay (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

Over at Harry’s, a thread to discuss the worst political song of all time eventually flipped over to consider what might be the best. No one so far has mentioned the excellent Woody Guthrie/Martin Hoffman song “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)”, though it’s surely a very strong contender. Two nights ago, it was quite the highlight of Joan Baez’s fine set at the New Theatre here in Oxford, and yesterday’s grim news from the sands of Morecambe Bay brought it to mind once again, and for more than one reason.

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott’ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”.

My father’s own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

Good snippets on the song are over here; SIAW has the best discussion I’ve yet seen of the Morecambe drownings.

UPDATE [8.2.2004]: Chris Bertram has also posted on Morecambe.

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