Donnerstag, 15. September 2011

"Heartland" - 1990 song by Steve Gillette & Rex Benson


Back in March of 1997, I was searching the Digital Tradition Folksong Database at The Mudcat Cafe, trying to find the lyrics to the song "Heartland" by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson from Willie Nelson's 1993 album "Across the Borderline".

To my astonishment, I found an identically titled song
by Steve Gillette and Rex Benson:

Here, in the heart of the nation.
I'm just a man whose made a promise he can't keep
I've been workin' every sunrise,
But it's too late, I'm in too deep.

This farm is my home it's my birthright
It's the only life I know.
I've worked this land with all the love in these hands
And I can't just let it go.

But in the heartland,
There's a man who holds the paper on my soul.
There's a circumstance that's out of my control.
And the thunder and the winds begin to roll.


In the heartland,
In the light before the darkness falls.
Revelations in those marbled halls,
Where they've traded away my home,
     Where they've taken away my home.

What does it profit a man,
To gain the world and lose the seed?
To see the innocent land
Become the servant of their greed.

And I know I'm not alone,
There's a woman who knew me when my prayers were younger.
And children, ashamed of their hunger.
And others, family farmers like my own,
Up late tonight in the heartland.

And in the heartland,
There's a man who holds the paper on my soul.
There's a circumstance that's out of my control
And the thunder and the winds begin to roll.
In the heartland,
In the light before the darkness falls.
Recriminations in those distant halls
Where they've traded away our home,
Where they've taken away our home.

Copyright 1990, Foreshadow Music, BMI / Jesse Erin Music, ASCAP
Used by permission


Back in 1997, I wrote:
"Somehow, I found the similarities (topic and lyrics) to the identically named Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson song to be rather striking -- mere coincidence? Somehow, I doubt it....

To be fair, however, didn't Bob himself start the whole thing with "Ballad of Hollis Brown" back in the 1960s?




Or Woody Guthrie  in "Tom Joad", his rendering of John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath"...  
Or, for that matter, the anonymous authors lamenting the plight of  peasants in medieval England?"

Yesterday, I received an email from Steve Gillette who confirmed that at least Willie Nelson knew Steve's and Rex's song prior to his collaboration with Bob Dylan:

"Rex and I were very gratified by your willingness to make that statement.  It seemed to us that you were very perceptive, and also willing to point out that the emperor's new cloths might not be what they seem.  Forgive the clumsy use of the old expression, but I was glad to have the article which I believe you wrote in 1997.

When Rex and I wrote the song it seemed a natural fit with the Farm Aid concerts and we sent the song to Willie by way of his managers, his harmonica player, Micky Rafael who is an acquaintance, we even left a copy for him at his golf course, so we know he had ample opportunity to hear our song."

Steve added in a second email today:

"I do have great respect for Willie Nelson and for Bob Dylan and wouldn't want to say anything hurtful or that might be interpreted as a cheap shot, but what I said about their having access to our song is true.  And, honestly, I don't think one could write their song without having heard ours, but it wouldn't be the first time that I heard the echoes of my own words without knowing the full story."

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