Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River Songs in The Columbia (1949 Film)


[On screen text] In 1941, the Bonneville Power Administration hired folksinger Woody Guthrie to write music for a movie about the Columbia River and the benefits new hydroelectric dams would bring to the people of the Northwest. Three of those songs appear in the BPA-produced film, “The Columbia,” which was abandoned due to the start of World War II and went unfinished until 1949. [On screen text] Roll Columbia, Roll – Woody Guthrie
[Music] There’s a great and peaceful river
In a land that’s fair to see Where the Douglas fir tree whispers
To the snow-capped mountain breeze Where the cliffs area solid granite
And the valley’s always green This is just as close to heaven
As my travelin’ feet have been Roll Columbia, won’t you roll, roll, roll
Roll Columbia, won’t you roll, roll, roll [On screen text]
Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie [Music] It’s a mighty hard row that our poor hand
has hoed And our poor feet has travelled a hot, dusty road. Out of the Dust Bowl and westward we rolled, And your deserts are hot and your mountains are cold. We travel with the wind and the rain in our face Our families migratin’ from place unto place. We work in your beet fields till sundown tonight Travel 300 miles ‘fore the morning gets light. Arizona, California, we’ll make all your crops, Then it’s northward to Oregon to gather your hops, Strawberries, cherries and apples the best, In that land full of Promise — the Pacific Northwest. [On screen text] Roll Columbia, Roll – Woody Guthrie [Music] Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of ’33 For the farmers and the workers and for all humanity; Now, River you can ramble where the sun sets in the sea, But while you’re rambling, River you can do some work for me. Roll Columbia, won’t you roll, roll, roll
Roll Columbia, won’t you roll, roll roll. [On screen text] The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done – Woody Guthrie [Music]

I clumb the rocky canyon where the Columbia River rolls, Seen the salmon leaping the rapids and the falls. The big Grand Coulee Dam in the State of Washington Is just about the biggest thing that man has ever done. Three time the size of Boulder or the highest pyramid, Makes the Tower of Babel a plaything for a kid, From the rising of the river to the setting
of the sun The Coulee is the biggest thing that man had ever done. I’d better quite my talkin’ ’cause I told
you all I know But please remember partner wherever you may go I’ve been from here to yonder; I’ve been from sun to sun The Coulee Dam’s the biggest thing that man has ever done. [On screen text] Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie [Music] Look down in the canyon and there you will see Grand Coulee showers her blessings on me. My land I’ll defend with my life if it be ‘Cause my Pastures of Plenty must always be free.We worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes, And we slept on the ground ‘neath the light of the moon, We picked in your cotton, cut the grapes from your vine To set on your table your light sparkling wine. It takes home-loving mothers and strong-hearted men, Every state of this union us migrants has been ‘Long the edge of your cities you’ll see us and then We have come with the dust and we’re gone with the wind. [On screen text] The 26 ballads Guthrie wrote for BPA in 1941, including “Roll Columbia, Roll,” “Pastures of Plenty,” and “The Biggest Thing that Man
has Ever Done,” were compiled and released as a collection known today as “The Columbia River Songs.”

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