Woody Guthrie was one of the most important folk musicians of the 20th Century. His work has inspired countless other artists, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
In 1948, a plane crashed into Los Gatos Canyon, killing 32 people, the majority of whom were migrant workers being deported back to Mexico. Woody Guthrie, who was living in New York at the time, was struck by the fact that most coverage of the tragedy did not name the victims, listing them merely as "deportees." He wrote this song to commemorate them.
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning, The oranges piled in their creosote dumps; They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border To pay all their money to wade back again Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria; You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane, All they will call you will be "deportees" 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 contract's 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 all 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 be called by no name except "deportees"?