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Liveblogging World War II: March 24, 1941

The Daily Worker:


At a recent meeting of the League of American Writers, Theodore Dreiser heard Pete Bowers and Lee Hays, the Almanac Singers, sing ballads from their endless repertoire. When they had finished singing, Dreiser commented, “If there were six more teams like you, we could save America.” Lee Hays, youthful ex-preacher and teacher (Commonwealth College), was born to an Arkansas family of whom he is not proud. “They were reactionaries," he said. He ran away from home at the age of 15; and he has since that time been associated with the workers of the South, labor unions, as well as peo ple’s literary and musical organizations. Pete Bowers, who prepared for college at a Connecticut Preparatory School, and attended Harvard, developed an interest in the people’s music and has for the last two years been traveling through all sections of the country learning the songs that America sings.

Bowers and Hays are the performers. But actually they are two of a trio. The third member of the group is Millard Lampell, born in West Virginia, now doing magazine work in New York. The group has recently completed a book of songs which it has prepared for the American Peace Mobilization. They are songs of labor, songs of social protest, songs of satire. They use the tradi tional ballad and hymn forms, and to the established music they add topical lyrics, such as:

Remember when the AAA
Killed a million hogs a day;
Instead of hogs it’s men today

The Almanac Singers make it a point not to be an exclusive writing group; anyone who has an idea for them will be heard and the idea will be used if it is good. For the most part they use ballads. But they are also engaged in writing original words and music. In addition they parody such old songs as “Billy Boy:”

Don’t you want to see the world, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Don’t you want to see the world, Charming Billy?
It wouldn’t be much thrill to die for DuPont in Brazil
He’s a young boy and cannot leave his mother.

In a foreword to their book for the APM they say, "Write new songs of your own and parodies and poetry, and sing them so loudly that all the warmongers and native fascists and enemies of peace will hear you and tremble in their counting houses."

“We are in the peace army. Remember that a singing army is a winning army”...