Be The Change: Paul and Sheila Wellstone were my friends for over thirty years. During their last Senatorial campaign, I flew with Paul & Sheila to a debate in southwestern Minnesota. On the flight home, I asked Paul how he was able to handle what I perceived to be personal attacks. Paul simply quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Pope County Blues: Paul and I first met in the 1970’s when we were both active with farmers fighting to stop a high-voltage power line in central Minnesota. Pope County Blues was released to help get the word out. Radio stations wouldn’t play it, so the farmers made sure it could be heard on jukeboxes across central Minnesota.
Agent Orange: My Country Tis To Thee: Paul was a voice for the Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, the code name for a chemical herbicide used as a defoliant on 17.5 million acres in Vietnam. Veterans, who were exposed to Agent Orange from 1962 – 1971, suffer from a variety of medical problems including: chloracne, cancer, birth defects, mutations, metabolic disorders, and kidney dysfunction. Agent Orange: My Country Tis To Thee is the soundtrack for Agent Orange: A Story of Dignity and Doubt, narrated by Martin Sheen and financed by the Minnesota Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Let Us Rise Up & Sing: Paul’s political roots go back to the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota. One of the early champions of the Farmer-Labor Party was Governor Elmer Benson (from 1937–1939.) When the lumberjacks went on strike, Governor Benson called out the National Guard on the company. The lumberjacks won! Being moved by his courage, I wrote Let Us Rise Up & Sing for Governor Elmer Benson after he died in 1985.
On The Bus: On The Bus was collectively written by Ann Hoff’s 4th grade students at Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary School in St. Paul as part of my Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song™ program. The song is based on Paul Scott’s story of meeting Paul Wellstone:
“My name is Paul Scott. After a short time in the Korean infantry, I came home and got a job driving the Greyhound bus. When I was asked if I would drive the Green Bus for Paul Wellstone, I didn’t know who he was. I said, “Where is his bus?” “It’s in a garage in Shakopee.” When I went there and said, “I’m the new Wellstone bus driver.” The man said, “You owe me $340!” I paid it. I drove it for one day and it broke down! Then I heard Paul talk, and I was hooked.”
Hard Times Coming Our Way: Mary Harris Jones (1830 – 1930), better known as Mother Jones, was a prominent American Labor and community organizer, and Wobbly. Mother Jones began organizing at forty years of age while Paul Wellstone (1944-2002) began organizing in his twenties. They both left an indelible mark on the progressive politics of our nation. The foundation of Hard Times Coming Our Way is my earlier song, We Love You, Mother Jones.
My Father’s Eyes Are Looking Down On Me: My father, Red Long, passed away when I was young. Without the help of government programs, family, and friends, my family would not have made it. My Father’s Eyes Are Looking Down On Me was inspired by Why Do The Good Die Young, a the song I wrote for my father.
Lay Me Down Easy: LeAnn Little Wolf wrote after the Wellstone plane crashed: “As the rescue crews were approaching the crash site, eagles were sighted soaring above . . . though our time here is brief, an ancient truth circles with the eagles: Spirits never die.”
All songs: © Larry Long 2006
Special Note: “This Land Is my Land. It’s not your land. Get the hell off my land. Go find your own land. From California to the New York Islands this land is mine it’s not yours!” I first heard these new words sung to Woody Guthries’s song, “This Land Is Your Land”, by the Lakota singer, actor, and activist, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman