Songwriters and Performers: Deportees

At this time when ‘my ‘ Australian government is reviving xenophobia and energetically promulgating the myth of imminent invasion by ‘illegal’ asylum seekers and depersonalised ‘refugees’, this classic Woody Guthrie song has taken on a new poignancy and a place in my setlist.


The simplicity and compassion of this version, with Ani di Franco, Ry Cooder and Dan Geller is my favourite of the many online.

May we keep this song, and our voices alive, mes amigos, and never accept the incarceration, dehumanisation, ‘turning back’ torture and cruelty done in our name.

Adios also to Pete Seeger, who kept this song alive. Here is his version with Arlo Guthrie, who kept his father’s tradition alive.

And one by the impeccable Nancy Griffith and friends, with some verses in Spanish


Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)     Woody Guthrie

 The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting

 The oranges piled in their creosote dumps

 You’re flying them back to the Mexican border

 To pay all their money, to wade back again

 Goodbye to my Juan, good-bye Rosalita

Adios mes amigos, Jesus y Maria

 You won’t have your name when you ride the big airplane

All they will call you will be deportee

 My Father’s own father, he waded that river

     They took all the money he made in his life

     My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees

     And they rode the truck till they took down and died

 Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted

     Our work contracts out and we have to move on

     Six hundred miles to that Mexican border

     They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves

 We died in your hills, we died in your deserts

     We died in your valleys, and died on your plains

     We died ‘neath your trees, and we died in your bushes

     Both sides of the river, we died just the same

 The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon

     A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills

     Who are these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?

     The radio says they are just deportees

 Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?

     Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?

     To fall like dry leaves, to rot on my topsoil

     And to be called no name, except deportee.


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