On Woody Guthrie’s “Along in the Sun and the Rain”

In the end of “Along in the Sun and the Rain,” Woody Guthrie sings, “I’m going to get my job done, I’m going to get my job done, I’m going to get my job done, along in the sun and the rain.” In this song, I think “job” is synonymous with “vocation” or “calling.” When I think of vocation I think about what an individual is here to do, what the individual is called to do. As I understand it, one does not choose their vocation but does choose whether or not to commit to their vocation or job.

I’ve started at the end but want to start at the beginning. He opens the song by repeating the line, “Along in the sun and the rain,” which is the title of the song. After he repeats this line, he begins to sing about his travels. He tells us that he’s come a long, lonesome ways. He tells us what he’s seen and what he’s done: he’s had fights, he’s had friends, he’s had lovers. Finally, he tells us that he is going to get his job done.

I understand this song in two ways.

One way in which to look at the song is that his travels are important to his job but separate from it. The fights, the friends, and the lovers have somehow distracted him from his calling. It’s been long and lonesome and taken him off-course.

If I look at the song in this way, the end of the song is his way of committing to his job, finally. He repeats that “I’m going to get my job done” because he has not been doing his job and he needs to tell himself and he needs to tell you and he needs to tell me that: yes, he is. He is going to do it, even though he’s not been doing it for a long while. He sings the line again and again, committing each time, and drives the point home by saying that he is going to get his job done, along in the sun and the rain.  If I look at the song in this way, the song becomes a way of committing, of communicating that commitment of saying: OK. No more wavering. This is what I’m going to do, under any circumstance, rain or shine.

A second way of looking at this song, the way in which I currently like to understand this song, is that his job is to bear witness and he bears witness through song. I think of bearing witness as an act of shedding light on what is dark, so that the individual and community can heal and transform and experience joy.

In this song, he sing us about his long, lonesome ways.  In the song, he uses the word “see” a lot. He sings, “I’ve seen a lot of towns,” and “I’ve seen a whole lot of things.”  He sings what he sees and, in doing so, becomes a witness. He expands his role as a witness by singing about what he’s done. He’s had a whole lot of fights, he’s kissed a whole lot of lips, he’s shook a lot of hands. He’s aware enough to observe what he’s done and to tell us about it.  If I look at this song this way, the one line “I’m going to get my job done” is very powerful. He is committing to his job, communicating his job, and doing his job simultaneously.

There is no exclusive meaning to the song or perhaps any song or any form of communication. I hear about what I hear and sometimes what I hear changes depending on my experience.  When I needed to commit to my vocation, I saw the song as a form of commitment. Now that I am committed and doing my job, I enjoy viewing the song as a form of bearing witness.

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