arlo-pete.jpgI’m listening to Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger today. My 1982 live concert LP “Precious Friend” is spinning around on my old Sony turntable. Pete and Arlo always give me a lift. These days it seems we all need a lift more often than not. Running across one song in particular from this album brought a huge smile to my face today so I’d like to share it with my friends.

Lee Hays, who along with Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman made up the influential folk group The Weavers (who had the distinct honor of being blacklisted by Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950’s), once said of the dark days of Watergate and Nixon, “This too shall pass. I’ve had kidney stones and I know.”

And these challenging times also shall pass.

I remember the last time the economy tanked. It was the early 1980’s. Unemployment skyrocketed. Homes were worth less than than the mortgages people had on them. Vacancy rates in business districts were high. The number of people in need exceeded the capacity of agencies dedicated to helping them. Sound familiar?

My solution, business genius that I am, was to open a restaurant with my equally brilliant partner. Actually, all we wanted to do was show foreign, classic, and independent films. The restaurant thing was sort of a package deal to get the space we could turn into a movie theatre. It was a place beloved by a lot of folks–just not enough of them to keep us in business.

We asked our staff to park on the street directly in front of the door so it would look like we had customers. We ran specials on food, movies, live music, you name it. And we borrowed more money whenever we ran low. Over the five years we were in business we lost an average of $3,000 per month.

Horrible, right? Strike up the band playing “My Heart Bleeds For You, Tommy”, right? Doom, despair, and misery on me… sniff, sniff, right?

Wrong. They were some of the best years of my life. I met my wife Lindi then. My ol’ partner and I remain the closest of friends. I learned that sometimes there is nothing you can do once the Titanic hits the iceberg other than sing along with the dance band on deck. Friends stick together and help each other out.

And Tom Paxton wrote a helluva song in 1980.

I love it when something that was written to reflect other times jumps back into relevance when our crazy, human circles repeat themselves. The lyrics to “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler” are below. Or you can listen to Arlo Guthrie sing it here from the album I just finished listening to. What wonderful times we live in that you can listen to this on You Tube without having to locate a turntable to play this old LP… (oh, you can also watch Arlo sing his updated, 21st century version “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae” here or watch Tom Paxton’s hilarious version here).

Oh, the price of gold is rising out of sight,
And the dollar is in sorry shape tonight.
What a dollar use to get us
Now won’t get a head of lettuce,
No, the economic forecast isn’t bright.

But amidst the clouds I spot a shining ray,
I begin to glimpse a new and better way.
I’ve devised a plan of action,
Worked it down to the last fraction,
And I’m going into action here today:

I am changing my name to Chrysler,
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker,
“What you did for Iacocca
Would be perfectly acceptable to me.”

I am changing my name to Chrysler,
I am leaving for that great receiving line.
When they hand a million grand out,
I’ll be standing with my hand out,
Yes sir, I’ll get mine.

When my creditors come screaming for their dough,
I’ll be proud to tell them all where they can go.
They won’t have to yell and holler,
They’ll be paid to the last dollar
Where the endless streams of money seem to flow.

I’ll be glad to show them all what they must do.
It’s a matter of a simple form or two.
It’s not just remuneration, it’s a lib’ral education,
Makes you kind of glad that I’m in debt to you.


Since the first amphibian crawled out of the slime,
We’ve been struggling in an unrelenting climb.
We were hardly up and walking
Before money started talking,
And it’s said that failure is an awful crime.

It’s been that way a millenium or two;
Now it seems there is a different point of view.
If you’re a corporate Titanic
And your failure is gigantic,
Down in Congress there’s a safety net for you.

I am changing my name to Chrysler,
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker,
“What you did for Iacocca
Would be perfectly acceptable to me.”

There are times when its seems there is nothing but misery everywhere. A dear friend reminded me recently that we need to find joy in the struggle…