Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music
Armed with his weapon of choice, a guitar with the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” painted on it, Woody Guthrie was a pivotal contributor to the canon of protest tunes. He composed nearly 3,000 songs, many of which remained unpublished. This has allowed a new generation of artists to
set these unused lyrics to music and create anthems that still resonate in modern society.
One group that recently did this is the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys. The first time they made use of unused Guthrie lyrics was “Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight” for their 2003 album “Blackout.” They followed that up with their most well-known song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” which appeared on their 2005 album “The Warrior’s Code.”
After discussions with Woody’s daughter Nora, the band recorded an entire album of Guthrie lyrics in 2022 called “This Machine Still Kills Fascists.” During the same session, they also recorded a second album of Guthrie-penned lyrics, Okemah Rising, which will be released on May 12, 2023.
“Every night, when the audience is singing along with Woody’s words, his steadfast defense of the working class, and his fight against social injustice and the abuse of political power comes across loud and clear,” said vocalist Ken Casey, the band’s founder. “So as long as Dropkick Murphys are involved, Woody’s message will always be heard.”
The first video and single from the upcoming album is “I Know How It Feels.”
“And I know how it feels to work ’til you drop. And it’s 10,000 bills that you owe,” the song declares. It continues, “[I] know how it feels when you got calloused hands. And blisters on both of your feet. You can’t pay the rent, so the men take your things. And throw you right out on the street.”
With the working class under growing pressure and ongoing labor strikes and protests around the world, the song is a message of solidarity for the downtrodden.
The song weaves its way to a verse of empowerment: “I know how it feels to join a union. Speak up like a man and fight. I know how it feels to march and sing. When you know that your fight is right.”
Watch/listen to Dropkick Murphys’ “I Know How It Feels”: