Grand Coulee Dam
09. Grand Coulee Dam
(Woody Guthrie/TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc., BMI)

Track 9 – Grand Coulee Dam (MASTER MA 17)
This too was one of the twenty-six songs Guthrie wrote in the month he spent working for the Bonneville Power Administration. (He was paid $266 for the month, or $10 per song; his momentary boss, Stephen Kahn, crowed, it “was the best investment the Department of the Interior ever made.”) Set to the tune of “The Wabash Cannonball” – which Guthrie probably learned from a 1929 recording of the Carter Family – it is part geography lesson, part celebration of the vast dam itself, and a promise of the benefits to come. “The Ballad of the Great Grand Coulee,” to use Guthrie’s original title, contains some of his most poetic and alliterative lines: “In the misty crystal glitter of the wild and windward spray…” and “Like a prancing, dancing stallion down her seaway to the sea…” and “Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum….”