See copyright notice at

Grand Coulee Dam

Idiot Wind / Blood On The Tracks / 1975

Idiot Wind, blowing like a circle around my skull
Idiot Wind, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol (Katie) / (Jack Lynch):
Woody Guthrie wrote the Ballad of the Great Grand Coulee ("And on up the river at Grand Coulee Dam/the mightiest thing ever built by man/to run the great factories for old Uncle Sam/ it's roll on, Columbia, roll on!") as an employee of its owner- operator, the Bonneville Power Administration (a federal entity similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority):

	It was 1941, and Guthrie had been hired for $266.66 to
	spend a month writing songs for the fledgling Bonneville 
	Power Administration in praise of the development of
	water.  "Jackhammer Blues," "New Found Land," "Pastures 
	of Plenty," "Eleckatricity and All," "Ballad of the 
	Great Grand Coulee."
	   It was a time of almost mystical enthusiasm.  The 
	young engineers ... were going to wrestle the energy 
	from rivers, cultivate the deserts, and put American to 
	work.  And after years of dustblown expectations, young 
	Americans could suddenly be part of the mightiest thing.
	Concrete! Work! Adventure! Power!
	   ....  The Allies' air superiority in World War II was
	built in part by new aluminum plants in the region, which 
	were fired by Columbia River dams.

	   - Michael Parfit, "When Humans Harness Nature's Forces,"
	     1993:13 _National Geographic_ 56

So Woody was a kind of poet laureate of a mammoth public works project. His role and the result reminds me of the 1930s' Social Realism art that adorns so many government buildings of that era: muscular Everymen and -women in heroic tributes to industry and agriculture. The ties of the Columbia River system of dams to industrial output and, thence, to military materiel make Woody's efforts paens to the building blocks of a military-industrial complex.