Woody Guthrie Sings From the Dead to Denounce Racist Landlord 'Old Man Trump'

It has been more than six decades since the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to a song bemoaning his racist landlord, Fred Trump, who happens to be the father of the GOP nominee sometimes referred to as "the Donald."


Now, just in time for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, musicians Ryan Harvey, Ani DiFranco and Tom Morello have released a music video showing just how relevant the old ballad is to our modern times. The short film features the protest song “Old Man Trump,” whose lyrics were written entirely by Woody Guthrie, save a few minor tweaks.

“Woody Guthrie’s song was written between 1950 and 1952,” said Ryan Harvey, a musician who hails from the Riot Folk collective and the new label Firebrand Records. “When Trump supporters talk about ‘making America great again,’ I think it’s very clear they are talking about America after World War II and before the civil rights movement. It’s this nostalgia for the white '50s—an era that was racially exclusive.”

Fred Trump was Guthrie’s landlord for a short period when he lived in the nearly exclusively white Beach Haven public housing complex, not far from Coney Island.

“Here’s Woody Guthrie, one of the standard bearers of history, coming out from the dead to say here’s that great America that you were talking about, one of racial injustice and economic injustice where Trump’s father is the antagonist,” Harvey told AlterNet.

The scene for the video is set in modern-day Baltimore, where a black, working-class family stands up to an eviction order, with the help of the community solidarity, including the real-life organization known as Right to Housing Alliance.

Harvey told AlterNet that some of the footage was recorded at the Tubman House, which was “occupied by housing organizers and Black activists and is being turned into a social center.” The Tubman House is right across the street from where Freddie Gray was arrested.

“We wanted this to be a video that isn’t just about the 1950s but also about right now,” Harvey explained. “The song was written decades ago, but we wanted to make it modern and make it connected to the story of organizations and people who are right now fighting some of the same racist economic policies.”

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