Woody Guthrie, “Grand Coulee Dam,” Lyrics, 1941.

In May of 1941, the federal government employed folk legend Woody Guthrie to write songs to promote government-built hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Along with such classics as “Roll on Columbia” and “Pastures of Plenty,” Guthrie penned “Grand Coulee Dam” during this period, set to the tune of “Wabash Cannonball.” Built under the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration beginning in 1933, the Grand Coulee Dam is a concrete gravity dam that provides hydroelectric power and irrigation water.

Read the lyrics to “Grand Coulee Dam.” Listen to the song on YoutubeSpotify, or Apple Music.

How do Guthrie’s lyrics link the federal energy projects of the New Deal to the lives of common people? To the war effort in World War II?

How would you characterize Guthrie’s attitude towards the raw power of the Columbia River and its conversion to electrical power?

Citation: 
Woody Guthrie, "Grand Coulee Dam," The Asch Recordings Vol. 1, 1944.
Library Item date: 
1941
Teaching Unit: