1913 Massacre

Album: Hard Travelin': Asch Recordings Volume 3 (1949)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about a true event. Guthrie wrote in many different styles, and was very effective at telling a story in the form of a song. Anna Canoni, who is a director at the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, explains: "The telling of a specific story is what is very evident in Woody's songwriting in general. There's a song called "1913 Massacre," where he talks about this one specific event. It is one of the most moving songs that I have ever heard. It's absolutely amazing. This is also one that Woody recorded, it's very powerful hearing him sing it. It is a song about miners having their holiday party, when the bossmen hanging around outside yell into the party room that there is a fire and then locked the door. In an attempt to escape, everyone raced towards the door and because it was locked, 73 children died in the stampede. And it was this practical joke, this mocking moment, that struck a chord with him. So that is what Woody would do, he would take newspapers read through the articles and write songs about stories that touched him. Being able to write powerful stories about an event I think that that's such an amazing gift that Woody could bring to songwriting." (Anna is Woody Guthrie's granddaughter. Read more in her full interview. Learn much more at the official Woody Guthrie website.)
  • This appears on The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949, which is the only known recording of Guthrie playing to a live audience. The album was released in 2007 and was compiled from a rare wire recording of Guthrie that was restored thanks to the efforts of some talented recording engineers. The album won a Grammy for Best Historical Recording.
  • Artists to record this song include Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Jules Shear and Joel Rafael.

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