Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wants to run for Attorney General of New York State.
He might announce his candidacy within the next two weeks.
He's the son of Robert F. Kennedy, the former Attorney General under his brother, John F. Kennedy.
In 2001, President Bush named the Justice Department building after RFK.
The young Kennedy attended the ceremony.
We asked him what he thought of President Bush naming the building after his dad.
He said he wouldn't comment on the record.
But he did call President Bush "the most corrupt and immoral President that we have had in American history."
Not that he was enamored with Senator John Kerry.
Early in the campaign, Kennedy endorsed Senator John Kerry for President, but last month he expressed disappointment in Kerry's campaign and in the Democratic Party.
"The Republicans are 95 percent corrupt and the Democrats are 75 percent corrupt," Kennedy. "They are accepting money from the same corporations. And of course, that is going to corrupt you."
He has spent the last 18 years as a sort of private attorney general -- suing polluters to clean up the Hudson River.
Kennedy says that in the late 1960s, the Hudson River was "a national joke."
"It was dead water for 20-mile stretches north of New York City and south of Albany. It caught fire. It changed colors," he said. "Today, it is the richest water body in the North Atlantic. It produces more pounds of fish per acre and more biomass per gallon than any other waterway in the Atlantic north of the equator. It is the last major river system left in the North Atlantic, on both sides, that still has strong spawning stocks of all of its historical species of migratory fish."
He is seeking to close down the Indian Point nuclear power plant 22 miles north of New York City.
"After Chernobyl, 1,000 miles around the plant were uninhabitable. One hundred miles around the plant are permanently uninhabitable," he said. "One hundred miles around Indian Point would be all of New York City. So, imagine a world without New York City. Well, the terrorists already have. According to the 9/11 Commission, Mohammed Atta cased Indian Point before deciding to bomb the World Trade Center. But he believed, erroneously as it turned out, that the plant must be so heavily guarded, that it would be impossible to crash an airliner into it."
Kennedy charges that his appearance on MSNBC's Charles Grodin show in November 1996 got Grodin fired.
Kennedy was invited on the show to talk about his book and group by the same name -- Riverkeepers.
On the show, Kennedy ripped into GE, an owner of the network, for polluting the Hudson with PCBs.
On the show, Kennedy claimed that "every woman between Oswego and Albany has elevated levels of PCBs in her milk because of GE."
Grodin was soon thereafter fired.
Kennedy wrote a book last year that he hoped would change the direction of the country.
But it's a great book, nonetheless.
It's called Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy (HarperCollins, 2004).
For the past couple of years, he's been giving 40 or so speeches a year, mostly in the red zone, mostly to conservative groups.
He speaks about the corporate attack on the country.
"There is no difference between the reaction I get from Republicans and Democrats, because Americans share the same values," Kennedy told us. "If you talk about these issues in terms of our national values, everybody understands it."
In the book, Kennedy implies that we live in a fascist country and that the Bush White House has learned key lessons from the Nazis.
"While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business," he writes. "My American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as 'a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism.' Sound familiar?"
He quotes Hitler's propaganda chief Herman Goerring: "It is always simply a matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
Kennedy then adds: "The White House has clearly grasped the lesson."
Kennedy also quotes Benito Mussolini's insight that "fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."
"The biggest threat to American democracy is corporate power," Kennedy told us. "There is vogue in the White House to talk about the threat of big government. But since the beginning of our national history, our most visionary political leaders have warned the American public against the domination of government by corporate power. That warning is missing in the national debate right now. Because so much corporate money is going into politics, the Democratic Party itself has dropped the ball. They just quash discussion about the corrosive impact of excessive corporate power on American democracy."
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. They are co-authors of the forthcoming On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org).
Thank you very much for your kind expressions of sympathy upon the passing of my father, Edward Moore Kennedy. I have always known that my father touched the lives of others, but your thoughtful words and memories have brought a measure of comfort and peace to me and my family. Thank you to all who stood with him as he worked for justice, fairness, and opportunity for all.
Patrick J. Kennedy
Rhode Island - 01
A PSNI spokesperson for the British police force based in Armagh, Ireland, says that his colleagues are relieved to have escaped with their lives and they are furious that they had no prior warning of a high profile IRA checkpoint. It is still not clear if they were being set up from within for an ambush by disaffected sectarian colleagues.
The road block set up by heavily armed IRA volunteers in south Armagh, has also upset Loyalists, the SDLP and other British establishment politicians.
A British PSNI spokesperson said the patrol retreated as they witnessed IRA units stopping vehicles in the Meigh area near Newry on Friday evening. According to the BBC British Police have asked for anyone with information about the incident to get in touch. PSNI spin doctors also warned of a serious breakdown in police intelligence after being allowed by colleagues to drive into the republican roadblock without prior warning. There are a series of reports, of serious sectarian tensions within the PSNI itself, after the rout of their patrol without a single shot being fired.
Six masked volunteers carrying rifles were seen stopping vehicles on the outskirts of Meigh, in county Armagh on friday last. It is understood that a PSNI partol car had driven to within 100 meters of the checkpoint before turning back, in full view of more than 30 heavily armed volunteers, who were giving cover to the checkpoint with their Artillery, rocket launchers, armour piercing machine guns, along with ground to air missiles. Locals speak of snipers with Barret rifles, who had the patrol cars in their sights, however there were some civilians in the vicinity.
Many of the PSNI complained "We are getting vague breifings every single day that terrorists are highly active in and around Newry and South Armagh," he said. "But surely intelligence circles should be fit to warn us if illegal vehicle checkpoints are being carried out in our patrol area. "It doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened if the officers had driven straight into the trap." Unconfirmed reports speak of resignations on the basis that its getting too dangerous for the PSNI to operate in South Armagh and that some have refused to man PSNI checkpoints.
Others are believed to be furious with frustration at continous police intelligence failures, to locate heavy calibre tripod-mounted machine guns and the heavy artillery of the IRA, which is known to be in the hands of local Republicans. "We know they have DShK machine guns and if they are out in daylight doing vehicle checkpoints then they would probably feel confident enough to bring out the big stuff and take us on," he said. The Soviet made DShK's fires a 12.7mm round a minute and are capable of piercing armoured vehicles.
A statement by former republican Martin McGuinness, calling Irish freedom fighters "traitors" is believed to have sparked resignations within provisional Sinn Fein, created uproar within the Republican Movement in general and triggered a renewal of popular support for the fighters. Republicans point out the unmistakable contradiciton in the two statements below which has caused outrage all over Ireland.
Below is a small selection of recently acquired IRA weapons:
Martin McGuinness recently attacked dissident journalists. It would also appear that he has forgotten the old adage that when you point your finger at someone there are three pointing back at you. The word traitor has serious overtones and reprecussions in most countries worldwide as it has in Ireland. It is not normally a word used publicly by leadership but rather by bar room republicans, as it is simply a term of abuse, of other Irish people and the only ones who clearly benefit are the Brits, with their constant policy of divide and conquer.
Martin McGuinness doesn't drink and has done immeasurable damage to the "peace process" by inflaming those who were giving him and Adams the benefit of the doubt and who against their better judgement, were trying hard to give peace a chance for almost 20 years now !
Below are three links to some interesting discussions around all of this. I personally believe it is possible to disagree vehemently with someone's politics, without attacking them personally, so that we can learn the lessons of history, that we stop repeating the same mistakes over and over. We have all made mistakes if we are honest with ourselves,I certainly have but then the only ones who haven't are those who have done nothing !
“These people, they are traitors to the island of Ireland. They have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island and they don’t deserve to be supported by anyone.” Martin McGuinness
The first time I laid eyes on James Martin Pacelli McGuinness was in a back street of the Bogside in 1972.
I had gone there to gauge the mood and report on what was then Northern Ireland’s most infamous trouble spot.
There were no soldiers or police on patrol. Young men manned barricades and drove around the rock-strewn streets in hijacked cars. Up on the ancient walls of the city, over-shadowing the Bogside, troops peered down through their binoculars.
Martin McGuinness, I had been told, was the man to meet because he was in control of these dangerous streets. As I walked towards the Brandywell Inn, notebook in hand, an old battered Ford Cortina drew alongside me. A group of youths jumped out and ordered me into the vehicle.
The muzzle of an American carbine protruded from under the driver’s seat. I sat in the front and behind me the youths examined the contents of my wallet.
I said I was going to see a Mr McGuinness but mention of his name seemed to make no difference to their threatening mood as we drove around and around the dilapidated neighbourhood.
Half an hour elapsed and then the car swung into a street of old terraced houses. Ahead, through the windscreen, I could see a young, curly-haired man, dressed in a soiled Aran sweater.
He was lolling up against the wall but sprung to attention as my captives drove up and spoke to him.
“This is Martin McGuinness,” said the driver, beckoning in the direction of the young man who was already disappearing through a doorway. “You can get out and go in. Martin will talk to you now.”
I remember not being able to take in how youthful Martin McGuinness was. At only 22 years, he was clearly in charge.
That day, in 1972, I listened to his trenchant denunciation of the RUC and British Army and his vow that they would never walk the streets of the Bogside again.
There was no doubting his republican credentials and revolutionary zeal. He had piercing eyes and a chilling determination in his voice.
His message was dour and uncompromising, so much so that I remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable in his presence.
Fast forward 37 years to the steps of Stormont last week as 58-year-old Martin McGuinness denounced dissident republicans to the media with these words: “These people, they are traitors to the island of Ireland. They have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island and they don’t deserve to be supported by anyone.”
The message from his lips was very different from that which I had heard all those years ago on a May afternoon in the Bogside but the determination in his voice was still the same.
Standing there alongside the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, it was a defining moment for this community, and surely most of all, for him.
How far, I thought, had he and every one of us travelled in the 37 years since our paths had first crossed? The young man of violence in 1972 has become a defender of peace in March 2009. In saying that, I am mindful of the dreadful deeds with which he and his cohorts were associated for so long.
The terrible tragedy for all of us is that he directed his undoubted leadership qualities for so much of his own life, and ours, in such a negative, destructive manner just as Ian Paisley too did for so long with his language of intransigence.
The past week’s events have galvanised people across Northern Ireland as never before. The deaths of two soldiers and of a police officer have focussed our minds on the importance of preserving and nurturing political agreement.
These murders were meant to drive a wedge between us but instead they have pulled us closer together. They have given a new meaning to the old slogan: ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’
The side by side appearance of Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and the Chief Constable on Stormont’s steps may well turn out to be the point of no return on the long road to a lasting settlement.
First there was Paisley and now there is McGuinness. From 1972 to 2009, what road to Damascus they have trodden.
How relieved and thankful every one of us should be that human nature can change and that politics can be made to work.
There is surely no better proof of that amongst us at this moment than James Martin Pacelli McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of a new Northern Ireland — one that is desperate to go forward in peace and not back to its terrifying past.
I joined the Flying Column in 1916
In Cork with Seán Moylan, Tipperary with Dan Breen
Arrested by Free Staters and sentenced for to die
Farewell to Tipperary said the Galtee Mountain Boy
We crossed pleasant valleys and over the hilltops green
Where we met with Dinny Lacey, Seán Hogan and Dan Breen
Seán Moylan and his gallant band they kept the flag flying high
Farewell to Tipperary said the Galtee Mountain Boy
We crossed the Dublin mountains we were rebels on the run
Though hunted night and morning we were outlawed but free men
We tracked the Wicklow mountains as the sun was shining high
Farewell to Tipperary said the Galtee Mountain Boy
I'm bidding farewell to old Clonmel that I never more will see
And to the Galtee mountains that oft times sheltered me
To the men who fought for liberty and died without a sigh
May the cause be ne'er forgotten said the Galtee Mountain Boy
The Galtee Mountain Boy might be a cover but the men mentioned in the song are definitely not fictitious. All of them were well-known members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Tipperary - Cork area during the War of Independence and the Civil War.
Seán Hogan and Dan Breen were part of the group which seized a cart load of gelignite, or gelly, and detonators near Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary on 21 January 1919. Two officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) got killed in what is known as the Soloheadbeg Ambush. The ambush at Soloheadbeg marked the beginning of the War of Independence. After the ambush Seán Hogan and Dan Breen were on the run.
Hogan was arrested in May 1919, but freed near Knocklong by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), among which Dan Breen, when he was transported from Thurles to stand trail in Cork.
In June 1921, only a few weeks before the end of the War of Independence, Ned Foley and Patrick Maher were executed for the killing of two police escorts during the Knocklong Rescue. Seán Hogan, who was wounded during his escape, recovered and fought in the Civil War against the Free Staters.
Dan Breen managed to avoid being arrested, although once he sustained 22 bullet wounds in a shootout with the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). Like Seán Hogan Breen opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and fought in the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He was arrested by Free Staters during the Civil War and imprisoned in Mountjoy Prison, from which he was released after a hunger and thirst strike. After the Civil War Dan Breen went into politics until his retirement in 1965.
Dinny Lacey was commander of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the south of County Tipperary and was killed in an ambush by members of the Free State Army on 18 February 1923.
And, last but not least, Seán Moylan was leader of the North Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). After the Civil War Seán Moylan was actively involved in the founding of Fianna Fáil. Moylan persuaded some of the anti-Treaty side in the Republic of Ireland to put down their weapons and to enter politics.
Into our townlan' on a night of snow
rode a man from God knows where;
None of us bade him stay or go,
nor deemed him friend, nor damned him foe,
but we stabled his big roan mare;
for in our townlan' we're decent folk,
and if he didn't speak, why none of us spoke,
and we sat till the fire burned low.
We're a civil sort in our wee place
so we made the circle wide
round Andy Lemon's cheerful blaze,
and wished the man his length of days
and a good end to his ride.
He smiled in under his slouchy hat,
says he: 'There's a bit of a joke in that,
for we ride different ways.'
The whiles we smoked we watched him stare
from his seat fornenst the glow.
I nudged Joe Moore: 'You wouldn't dare
to ask him who he's for meeting there,
and how far he has got to go?'
And Joe wouldn't dare, nor Wully Scott,
And he took no drink - neither cold nor hot,
this man from God knows where.
It was closing time, and late forbye,
when us ones braved the air.
I never saw worse (may I live or die)
than the sleet that night, an' I says, says I:
'You'll find he's for stopping there.'
But at screek o'day, through the gable pane
I watched him spur in the peltin' rain,
an' I juked from his rovin' eye.
Two winters more, then the Trouble year,
when the best that a man could feel
was the pike that he kept in hidin's near,
till the blood o' hate an' the blood o' fear
would be redder nor rust on the steel.
Us ones quet from mindin' the farms
Let them take what we gave wi' the weight o' our arms
from Saintfield to Kilkeel.
In the time o' the Hurry, we had no lead
we all of us fought with the rest
an' if e'er a one shook like a tremblin' reed,
none of us gave neither hint nor heed,
nor ever even'd we'd guessed.
We men of the North had a word to say,
an'we said it then, in our own dour way,
an' we spoke as we thought was best.
All Ulster over, the weemin cried
for the stan'in' crops on the lan'.
Many's the sweetheart and many's the bride
would liefer ha' gone to where he died,
and ha' mourned her lone by her man.
But us ones weathered the thick of it
and we used to dander along and sit
in Andy's, side by side.
What with discourse goin' to and fro,
the night would be wearin' thin,
yet never so late when we rose to go
but someone would say: 'do ye min' thon' snow,
an 'the man who came wanderin'in?'
and we be to fall to the talk again,
if by any chance he was one o' them
The man who went like the win'.
Well 'twas gettin' on past the heat o' the year
when I rode to Newtown fair;
I sold as I could (the dealers were near
only three pounds eight for the Innish steer,
an' nothin' at all for the mare!)
I met M'Kee in the throng o' the street,
says he: 'The grass has grown under our feet
since they hanged young Warwick here.',
And he told me that Boney had promised help
to a man in Dublin town.
Says he: 'If you've laid the pike on the shelf,
you'd better go home hot-fut by yourself,
an' once more take it down.'
So by Comber road I trotted the grey
and never cut corn until Killyleagh
stood plain on the risin' groun'.
For a wheen o' days we sat waitin' the word
to rise and go at it like men,
but no French ships sailed into Cloughey Bay
and we heard the black news on a harvest day
that the cause was lost again;
and Joey and me, and Wully Boy Scott,
we agreed to ourselves we'd as lief as not
ha' been found in the thick o' the slain.
By Downpatrick goal I was bound to fare
on a day I'll remember, feth;
for when I came to the prison square
the people were waitin' in hundreds there
an' you wouldn't hear stir nor breath!
For the sodgers were standing, grim an' tall,
round a scaffold built there foment the wall,
an' a man stepped out for death!
I was brave an' near to the edge of the throng,
yet I knowed the face again,
an' I knowed the set, an' I knowed the walk
an' the sound of his strange up-country talk,
for he spoke out right an' plain.
Then he bowed his head to the swinging rope,
whiles I said 'Please God' to his dying hope
and 'Amen' to his dying prayer
that the wrong would cease and the right prevail,
for the man that they hanged at Downpatrick gaol
was the Man from God knows where!
Thomas Russell, of County Cork, bosom friend and devoted comrade of Tone and Emmet, organised County Down for the United Irishmen in 1795. One night, in 1996, he entered an inn or tavern in County Down, either Killyleagh or Loughinisland, where a number of local men were gathered. They were United Irishmen, but Russell didn't know it, and they didn't know him or why he was there. One of them, long years after, tells of that night, and tells where and under what circumstances he saw Russell again. The Warwick mentioned in the poem was a young Republican Presbyterian Minister who was hanged at Newtownards. Thomas Russell was hanged on 21st October, 1803.
Florence Wilson's ballad imaginatively recalls the outline features of Thomas Russell's activity in 1795 and 1803.
The opening verses depict Russell's work in Co Down during winter of 1795 when reconstruction of the United Irish movement was under way. F. J. Bigger, in his Four Shots From County Down, assumes that Andy Lemon's tavern was the Buck's Head at Loughinisland. It should be noted that in 1803 the proprietor was James Fitzpatrick, who gave evidence at Russell's trial of Russell's attempts to raise Down in Emmett's Rebellion.
Later verses depict 'the time of the Hurry' when in 1798 people "quet from mindin' the farms" to fight under McCracken and Munro. 'Young Warwick' is the Reverend Archibald Warwick of Kircubbin who was executed along with the Reverend James Porter of Greyabbey. Both were Presbyterian clergymen.
As the ballad moves to a close it re-echoes the supposition that French help was under way in 1803 -'Boney had promised help to a man in Dublin town'. A hint of the debacle in July-August 1803 is given in the lines:
"but no French ships sailed into Cloughey Bay
and we heard the black news on a harvest day
that the cause was lost again.
The dramatic final verses connect Russell's last words to the impression he made on his listeners during his visit to their townland on that 'night of snow' in winter 1795.
Acknowledgement: Dennis Carroll "The Man from God Knows Where: Thomas Russell 1767 - 1803"
So rise up all you ancestors,and dance upon your graves,
I've come to hear your voices now, so maybe I'll be saved.
Russell says that, "The original idea was that I would both record and tour as this character, 'Man from God Knows Where', who would summon up his ancestors at each show and explore their history. Every show would be different, with new information being added. That's pretty much the way it is going so far, too. The show changes every night. I don't add new songs, but I bring in new thoughts, lines and insights from my ancestors. I am learning quite a bit doing this show live." Russell compares the project to the Lakota/Sioux sweat lodge and Yuwipi ceremonies, which honor ancestors by seeking their wisdom.
Lakota leader Sitting Bull himself appears in Man From God Knows Where, speaking from a gondola in an old photograph. Russell comments, "That's the ironic take on immigration. I saw that photo in an old cowboy photo book. There is some question about whether Sitting Bull actually went to Venice, but it doesn't matter. He was with the Wild West Show and the point is that I realized that while he was sailing to Europe with Buffalo Bill Cody, my own ancestors were sailing to America to settle in the very places where the Native Americans were being destroyed and dispossessed of their lands. It is very, very sad. And I wanted to include some thought on the indigenous peoples and what immigration meant to them on this project."
"I close my eyes and see the Big Horn Valley,
Harvest moons ago, The bloody hair of Custer
Hanging from our victory pole!" - "Sitting Bull in Venice"
Russell acknowledges the common perception among Southwest peoples, both indigenous and Chicano, that they were historic victims of an "Anglo" invasion. "I'm sure there is an awareness of the complexity of immigration, but there also must be a feeling that an outside 'army' of English-speakers marched in, just as an earlier wave of Spanish-speaking invaders moved over that part of the country.
"I want to explore that more, about how people moved and interacted along the Rio Grande. The Spanish coming up the river, killing Indians all along the way, then the Americans moving in, killing Spanish and Indians. You know, the government wants to make the whole Rio Grande a national monument. I live in El Paso now, and I am reading a lot about all that. I feel like I am living in Egypt along the Nile! The Rio Grande is likely to be my next album project in a couple of years."
Russell lives in El Paso now. "I like it very much. There is no music scene and no real literary scene. Just regular working folks. I like that. My girlfriend and I looked around the Southwest about two years ago when we were sick of New York and the urban thing. We fell in love with this place on the Rio Grande."
About his part in the Merle Haggard tribute album a few years ago, Russell says, "I liked doing that album. Because I grew up on that music, those dust bowl songs, and Johnny Cash. George Jones. Merle Haggard. I liked country music when it was for working people. About ten or fifteen years ago country music left that and became a middle class dance-pop thing built around 'stars'. I was very sad to see that happen. I try to get back to that working class focus in my own songs, though I don't get real political about it."
Oh gather round me people, lend an ear now if you please,
Your promised land was settled by bastards, drunks and thieves,
Excuse me if it offends you, but I'm the worst of all of these,
Yes, I destroyed the family tree,
I am the Outcast!
Russell laughs about his choice of Dave Van Ronk to sing the part of The Outcast. "I wanted to have a Devil's Advocate, the opposite of my character, The Man from God Knows Where, to talk from that view of history: all the bigotry and swindling that went on. Originally I thought of Tom Waits. Then I talked with Dave about it. He loved the concept and I realized he was perfect for it. He had that voice! And he had done blues and Bertolt Brecht folk opera. And he had explored his own Irish and Dutch roots and related them to the slave roots and other folk roots in America. On the album, The Outcast says the things that the Man (me) could not say. The Outcast is the guy who met the immigrants when they got off the boat and told them his version of history at the same time that he was swindling them. I grew up on Rodgers and Hart and Broadway shows as well as Woody Guthrie and folk music. There always needed to be a villain, an alter-ego--like when I saw Jerry Lee Lewis play Iago in a rock version of Othello. I never forgot that! I loved having Dave play The Outcast part. He took all the racism, the dirty politics and put it right out there. History depends on who is telling it, doesn't it?"
Russell remarks on how the version of history told in The Man From God Knows Where differs from the common account in US history texts: "We know that there was lots of suicide, alcoholism, bankruptcy and despair. You don't get that in the standard school history books. But you see it in the photos, in the tales handed down, including my own family history. The ancestors can tell us this story. I wanted to make it real. I see this piece as balanced by The Man and The Outcast. Two ways of looking at immigrant history."
"This is a work in progress for me. I am still digging into it. It has to do with the struggle to find community--we are still struggling, aren't we? There were very tough times for the people out on the plains. Back there in Europe, in Ireland or Norway or Italy, there was and always has been a sense of community. People always have links to neighbors and relatives, to places. It roots them in time. "But in America all that was destroyed by the move into new land, by harsh reality, by destruction of the natives, by a lack of any real sense of place and belonging. By being told stories about this place that differed. By swindlers, by saints. And by loneliness. There was tremendous isolation."
Russell talks about the sense of community we are finding in America. "Yes, we are discovering it. At last. I love where I live now and I plan to stay. And I am learning community from ancestors along the way, and from audiences, from touring America."
He recounts his personal history. "I was raised on the West Coast. I tried performing my songs around the country. I also worked with the William Morris Agency in developing novels for publication. I always knew I had these characters, but I wasn't sure where to go with them. By 1979, I had quit performing and I was driving a cab in New York City. One night, I happened to pick up Robert Hunter as a fare. He's the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, you know. We got to talking and he encouraged me to get back to performing and recording my songs.
"I put together the Tom Russell Band and we went to Norway, where we had a hit song, "St. Olaf's Gate" that later was covered by Doug Sahm and others. I began working more in Europe and western Canada than in the US. I worked with both Ian and Sylvia separately--I was a big fan! And I even co-wrote a book with Sylvia Tyson. The Merle Haggard tribute and my last two CDs finally opened up the US market for us."
My father was a gambler, he threw horseshoes at the moon
He won a million dollars, and he lost a million, too.
His father's troubled life history is portrayed on the recording without apology and with clear affection. "My Dad passed away just two years ago, in 1997. I really could not finish this project until then. Writing and recording this album was more disturbing to the rest of the family than to me. It was more cathartic and cleansing and freeing for me. You know, it ends in 'Love Abides'. That song means a great deal to me."
Here's to what we've left behind us,
Here's to what we've kept inside
May the road that lies before us
Lead to a place where love abides.
Russell says that his time in Europe aroused dormant curiousity about his personal family origins. "I spent time trying to find the family farm in Norway, and found a deep sense there of connectedness, of roots going very deep and extending out across the seas.
I miss ancient rock and wild fjord
Where my grandparents stood by the door
Praise God that before I pass from this life
I'll lay eyes on that old Northern shore.
"That's where I really felt I could discover something important by focusing on research of my own ancestors. My Irish family history is more complicated. I am descended from both Russells and Malloys. It opened a big door to go there. Musically, I found myself in Doolin, in Dublin and all around the country, with so many songs, such fine musicians, and everyone wanting to talk about the people who went off to America. I would love to work with an Irish songwriter in the future. You know, it was Delores Keane, the voice of Ireland, who gave the wonderful idea for that song, 'When Irish Girls Grow Up'. She told me how Irish women can gossip, even though it is considered sinful, because they ask for forgiveness beforehand. And it was an Irish journalist who asked me if my song cycle would include anything about the Native Americans and how the immigrants impacted upon them."
Have you heard about the Cooney's, the Russell's and Malloy's?
Their girls all left the farm and went to chasin' city boys . . .
Oh, isn't it a pity, when Irish girls grow up?
Will there be a performance of The Man in its full multi-singer format, as on the CD? Russell explains, "The full cast of The Man from God Knows Where was assembled... in Norway at a castle on the really wild rugged coast. We spent two days there, got into the feeling and the reality of it. We performed the cycle for Norway television. Possibly we will put the whole cast together for a performance in the US sometime in the future. Meanwhile, Andrew and I will keep touring, getting to know our audiences and digging deeper into this material. We are having a grand time at it so far!"
Oh, they hung me in Downpatrick,
Up near St. Patrick's tomb,
But my ghost rose up in the peat fire smoke
Toward the rising of the moon.
Now as I drift through your villages,
All the maidens stop and stare,
'There goes old Tom, the vagabond,
The Man From God Knows Where.'