Item no. 28049
New York
Collection: Wagner Labor Archives

"Dear Mr. President..." Keynote Records, 1942.

In January 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor, the Almanac Singers recorded “Dear Mr. President,” an album of six topical songs set to traditional melodies to aid the war effort, fight fascism and support President Roosevelt. The songs were written by group members, including Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Agnes Cunningham and Arthur Stern, and the music was directed by friend and composer Earl Robinson, author of the patriotic “Ballad for Americans.”

Its visual references and chromatic palette reveal that the album was overtly patriotic and pro-war, a departure for the Almanacs who had previously played peace and labor songs. In addition to Seeger's confessional title track, the album included one of Guthrie’s most famous songs, about the torpedoing of the first US naval ship in World War II, “The Sinking of the Reuben James,”  with its memorable refrain: “Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names.”

This image accompanies the audio recording of "Babe O'Mine," one of twenty songs you can listen to in the exhibit Labor Sings! Songs from the 1930s and 1940s, featuring highlights from the extraordinary compact disc collection by Ron Cohen and Dave Samualson, Songs for Political Action.

Listen to Woody Guthrie sing "Reuben James," in our Sailor Songs, Sailor Stories exhibit.

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View other items in the thematic set 1940s