I used a Woody Guthrie song in class last week. I did it with a warning that we don't mock art and that Woody Guthrie is not only art, but the music of my people (blue collar Okies). So we carefully waded in, reading Geraldo No Last Name (a chapter of The House On Mango Street that our Lit book uses as a short story). I love both the book and this chapter.
So after we read the story, we talked a bit about it. Not many of the kids are yet able to get Geraldo's anonymity until I tell them the story of the wreck over Los Gatos Canyon that inspired the Woody Guthrie song Deportee. I am always careful to speak of how we should avoid (as the kids would say) sipping the haterade or eating of the hater tots because, like I said, art and Okies.
I played them my Nancy Griffith version this year. I think it goes over better than my Judy Collins version. I like her, but I am aware that Judy gets a bit warbly. It worked! You wouldn't believe how it worked!! Kids listened silently, some got misty, and some wanted to sing along at the end.
But I didn't know how well it truly went until just now. Suitcase Boy came in today with a CD for me. He told me he found me some other versions of Deportee, and then just burned some Duran Duran for me to fill up the rest of the disc (did I mention Duran Duran to him? This reminds me of The Crib Chick's comment that my ideal concert must be Waylon Jennings and Squeeze). I just popped it in and I now have Deportee as performed by Springsteen, Hoyt Axton, The Highwaymen, and Arlo Guthrie along with about half a CD of the best truly bad techno that my youth had to offer.