August 28th, 2011

Irene, Goodnight

The storm hasn’t really been all it was cracked up to be here. But tis enough, twill serve—in other words, there’s a power outage where I live.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now, plugged into one of the last available outlets and guarding it mightily. I hope that by some time tonight my power will be restored, or at the latest by tomorrow, because the weather is supposed to turn rather nice. After all, this ain’t no ice storm: it’s August! Still summer! Miles to go before Labor Day is over!

Till then, let’s everybody sing along with those icons of my liberal/left youth, The Weavers:

[UPDATE: Power on!]

21 Responses to “Irene, Goodnight”

  1. Ozyripus Says:

    Wonderful! My favorite song on juke boxes in small town diners and bars when working in far-upstate N.Y. about ’52, just before learning another folksong, “ah-rhee-rung” (phonetic transliteration) in Korea. Back then I also was liberal, but not left; I had met NYC leftists at a midwestern university in the late ’40s, and wanted nothing to do with that arrogant crew, i.e., I was, maybe still am a Harry Truman liberal. Song must have lasted a long time, because Neo can’t be that old!

  2. rickl Says:

    I still have some ice left if you need it, neo…

    Here’s a slideshow of storm damage in the Philly area, from a local TV station’s website:

    Pictures Of Hurricane Irene’s Local Impact

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Ozripus: No, I’m not quite that old. I was raised on the records.

  4. Gringo Says:

    rickl, thanks for the Philly flood photos.
    Dry, Dry Dry in TX.
    Irene would be a blessing in TX.

    While this particular video of the Weavers does not appear to include Pete Seeger, I am reminded of an interesting anecdote Solomonia had regarding ex-Weaver Pete Seeger and Professor Howard Zinn. Apparently they knew each other 7 decades ago. Solomonia related attending a speech that Howard Zinn gave in early 2002.

    At that point, I raised my hand and asked him the following question: “Professor Zinn, in May of 1941 your friend, Pete Seeger, produced an album called Songs for John Doe which was a collection of blue collar songs that included one called The Ballad of October 16th. [At the time, Pete Seeger had formed his first commercial band called the Almanac Singers.] That song demonstrated yours and Pete’s pacifist philosophy by excoriating Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for urging United States entry into World War II to fight Hitler. Shortly after the album’s release, you and Pete were desperately trying to retrieve all the copies to take them out of circulation. Exactly what happened between May and June of 1941 to turn you from devoted anti-war activists into sabre-rattling patriots, resulting in your enlisting in the Army Air Force as a bombardier?”
    An angry, bemused pall fell over the room. Someone next to me growled, “Who are you?”
    A lengthy silence from Professor Zinn finally ended in a muted response: “Well, we’ve all made mistakes in our lives.” He was referring, of course, to his oft-stated repudiation of his role in World War II as a “death dealer” from on high.’

    I decided to fill in the rest for the stunned audience. “What you mean is that on June 22, 1941, your country was invaded. And by that, I mean the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On that date over a million German soldiers poured across the border in what was to prove the largest military aggression in history. Suddenly, Roosevelt became your hero because he was now Stalin’s ally. It seems that pacifism has its limits, even for you. And that’s how you went from orthodox pacifist to imperialist war monger.”
    Silence from the Professor. Shouts and threats from the audience. I began to move to the exit. I escaped.

    As Ozyripus made reference to the far left in the 1940s, and the YouTube commentary discussed the blacklist, I thought this anecdote might be appropriate.

  5. M J R Says:

    “[UPDATE: Power on!]”


    For me, the worst part of waiting for the power to return is the uncertainty. If I could know, for example, that the power will return (say) 30 hours from now, I can plan my life accordingly.

    But the idea that it may be 30 minutes from now or 30 hours (or 30 days???) makes planning my life impossible.

    Okay, end of whine.

    Congratulations (again), neo!

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo: Seeger and Stalin.

  7. Gringo Says:

    Neo: yes, Pete Seeger has repented.That it didn’t occur until decades after the 1956 Nikita Khrushchev speech is another matter. Whatever.

    What I found of interest in the Solomonia article was more what it had to say about Professor Zinn. I found interesting 1) the involvement of Howard Zinn with Pete Seeger back then – one of those unexpected threads- and 2) how hard-core both of them were at the time. (This was not news to me about Seeger, as I knew about the Almanac Singers.) It would appear to me that Howard Zinn was less repentant than Pete Seeger.

  8. Suellen Says:

    Ozyripus–I was raised on the Korean folksong too, learned by my dad in Korea (he pronounced it “ah-di-dung”). Never heard anyone else mention it until now. I am probably just a few years younger than neo, not much. My experience of Goodnight Irene was from the Brothers Four records we had in 1963. Enjoyed the clip.

  9. Jim Nicholas Says:

    “Irene” brings back memories of singing it to a girl friend in 1944, long before the Weavers’s version–modifying it to “Arlene, Goodnight. . .’, since her name was Arlene.

    My reason gradually pulled me away from the socialism of my youth, but my feelings can still feel a tug back when I listen to some of those old songs. As Tom Lehrer said ‘They had all of the good songs’.

    Changing and growing up can be bitter-sweet.

    Best wishes,


  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo: did you read the link about Seeger and Stalin? His “repentance” wasn’t much. It amounted to “if I need to apologize for my previous defense of Stalin, then America has to apologize for…” and a long list of America’s crimes. Plus, the usual, “Stalin’s error was he didn’t do Communism right.”

  11. John Says:

    “The storm hasn’t really been all it was cracked up to be here.”

    They usually don’t.

  12. Scott Says:

    My memories of Irene go back to cadences we sang in the Army. The only youtube I could find of the cadence starts at the 6:00 mark in the link below.

    BTW, this is a more politically correct version of the cadence we sang. The one we sang while double timing over 25 years ago did not pretend Irene was an F-14. It was unabashedly vulgar.

  13. bon homme richard Says:


    Seeger is the one playing the banjo.

  14. br549 Says:

    Depends where you live, what you see. Irene flat tore up parts of the Outer banks of NC. I am amazed by those who seem disappointed the damage was not much more than it was, as opposed to wiping the brow and whistling through one’s teeth. As is usual, New England and its all important self is all that seems to matter.

    Hang in there, you’ll get your CAT 5 “Andrew” someday. I just hope it doesn’t have to come through me first.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    br549: what are you talking about? Disappointed the damage wasn’t more? New England and its all-important self is all that matters, as usual? Are you daft?

    I’m writing from New England and mentioning what happened here because I was letting people know I was without power and didn’t know when I’d be getting it back, which might have affected whether I was able to blog. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad, and fortunately, I got my power back last night after only a day of no power.

    As for wishing a category 5 storm on anyone, I can’t imagine such a thing. I’m surprised you can.

  16. ziontruth Says:

    Nice to hear you’re safe! I have no inkling of what going through a hurricane means, so all I had in my mind was those pictures of the Mongolian ships blown away by the typhoon at the coast of Japan.

    “The storm hasn’t really been all it was cracked up to be here.”

    Much hype from the same people who want us to believe in global warming, hmmm?

    I can only recall Marty McFly’s reply to Doc Brown (in the original Back To The Future) when both the skies and the weather forecast bear no hint yet of the famous Hill Valley Lightning Storm: “Since when can weathermen predict the weather, let alone the future?”

  17. SteveH Says:

    No sane person is disappointed in the storm’s damage. What is disappointing is how media engages in over the top disaster speculation that arguably does more harm to people than any hurricane ever could.

  18. Artfldgr Says:

    thats the changed song..
    the original lead belly (Huddie Ledbetter) was a song about suicide… (which he got from an older song lost to time)

    Roots of Blues — Lead Belly „ Goodnight Irene”

    The lyrics tell of the singer’s troubled past with his love, Irene, and express his sadness and frustration. Several verses make explicit reference to suicidal fantasies, most famously in the line “sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown,” which was the inspiration for the 1964 Ken Kesey novel Sometimes a Great Notion.

    I can link it to lots of other stuff too..
    peter gabriel – Dont give up

    ‘got to walk out of here
    I can’t take anymore
    going to stand on that bridge
    keep my eyes down below

    whatever may come
    and whatever may go
    that river’s flowing
    that river’s flowing

    Take this hammer

    Take this hammer, carry it to the captain
    Tell him I’m gone

    If he asks you was I runnin’
    Tell him I was flyin’

    If he asks you was I laughin’
    Tell him I was cryin’

    They wanna feed me cornbread and molasses
    But I got my pride
    Well, I got my pride

    which brings me to a person we all should thank..

    Alan Lomax
    No individual has done as much to catalog and preserve traditional American music as American folklorist Alan Lomax (1915–2002)

    one of my best friends is a edison collector… one of the tops… has a marconi tube… yes i have held it and we have heard some of these old pieces… this weekend is our time to play with them… crank up the turn table, put on a diamond disk… or maybe a wax cylinder.. he was always amazed i knew all the lyrics to old songs he never knew…

    but i knew my great grandparents..
    my grandfather was born 1900…
    so that tells you how far back first hand pass me down memory can span… from the late 1800s, to 2012 (so far)

    no wonder the destruction of family was key… a family with all members present has a wisdom that first hand spans over 100 years, and second hand even farther.

    unlike today’s kids, thanks to feminist ideology, who don’t even know their grandparents names, let alone their great grandparents wisdom…

    anyone want to guess Lomax political leanings since so many of his ‘discoveries’ ended up communists and using their music to insinuate marxist politics through folk musics pipeline to people… (as with RAP and normans)

    woodie guthrie and pete seeger..
    the latter you can see in a photo with rosa parks and mr luthor at the communist subversive highlander school… (anyone do the research about odinga, a school, and the communist overthrow of Kenya?)

    and then there was Moses ‘Moe’ Asch… the producer of led bellies recordings…

    and led belly is referenced in two of van Morrison songs…

    Van morrison is VERY shy… i mean like wont talk to his agent shy… (wouldnt be surprised if he has autism spectrum)…

    anyway… his song “cleaning windows” is about what he used to do.. but a line in it..

    I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon on the street where I was born

    Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Muddy Waters singin’, “I’m a Rolling Stone”

    I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys’ book on Zen

    Curiosity killed the cat, Kerouac’s ‘Dharma Bums’ and ‘On The Road’

    and Astral Weeks
    To lay me down
    In silence easy
    To be born again
    To be born again
    There you go
    Standin’ with the look of avarice
    Talkin’ to huddie ledbetter
    Showin’ pictures on the wall
    Whisperin’ in the hall
    And pointin’ a finger at me
    There you go, there you go
    Standin’ in the sun darlin’
    With your arms behind you
    And your eyes before
    There you go

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast today… (in history)

  20. gs Says:

    I’m glad that everything worked out for you, Neo.

    During the 2008 New England ice storm, a tree would have fallen on the roof above my bedroom if it had not snapped partway up, so I waited out Irene in a motel. Only two nights, in contrast to twelve after the ice storm.

    The NHC forecast for three days running put the storm square over my North Central MA town. The only question was whether it would hit at 70 mph or 85 mph. I’m lucky and relieved that it finally swerved. (Note to self: hang the expense, I must get mobile Internet.)

    I followed the storm on a weather forum. It is one thing to be an devotee of extreme weather conditions; it is quite another to root for property destruction and human devastation.

    Relatives elsewhere on the East Coast also fared well. My thoughts go out to people who must use today’s ideal weather to deal with damage and wreckage.

  21. Paul in Boston Says:


    I’m not as old as you but I do seem to remember the song as the sign off of some 50′s tv show. I also had it on some of my old folksong records.

    Pete Seeger and Howard Zinn: America’s two richest & most successful Communists.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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