Happy birthday, Fred!
He's best known today for being the father of the current President of these United States, Donald J. Trump. (The elder Trump died in 1999, so he never got to see his son in the White House.)
But in 1950, when Donald was just a tiny orange tot, Daddy Fred crossed paths with a major figure in American music.
Woody Guthrie, in December 1950, signed a lease at the Beach Haven apartment complex, built by Fred Trump's company near Coney Island.
And soon, the Dust Bowl Balladeer began hating his landlord mainly because of the "bigotry that pervaded his new, lily-white neighborhood, which he’d taken to calling `Bitch Havens.' ”
That's the observation of Will Kaufman, a professor of American literature and culture at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain. Kaufman discovered some previously unpublished Guthrie lyrics and poetry while doing research at the Woody Guthrie Center’s archives in Oklahoma.
"Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of Fred Trump’s buildings and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings ..." Kaufman wrote in The Conversation in January 2016. "These writings have never before been published; they should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire."
Those writings include:
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project
And, Kaufman wrote, Guthrie reworked his song “I Ain’t Got No Home” into a "blistering broadside against his landlord":
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
There is no known recording of Woody singing this song. But shortly after Kaufman published his findings, singer Ryan Harvey, along with Ani DeFranco and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello put it to music under the title "Old Man Trump." using the melody of “I Ain’t Got No Home.”
Here's that song.
Happy birthday, Old Man Trump!