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This Day in Music – The Weavers on Jack Paar – Not!

So on this date in 1962 the folk group The Weavers at this time consisting of Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Erik Darling who had by this time replaced Pete Seeger were scheduled to appear on the Jack Paar Show, but before the show the left leaning group was asked to sign a statement swearing that none of them had ever been members of the Communist party. Outraged, all the members refused to sign, and NBC banned them from appearing on the show.

Now of course my first instinct was to play a Weavers song in their honor to celebrate the day, but then my thoughts drifted to Phil Ochs and his song “The Ballad of William Worthy” Which tells the tale of William Worthy an African-American journalist, civil rights activist, and dissident who pressed his right to travel regardless of U.S. State Department regulations. From Wikipedia:

Worthy traveled to Cuba in the early days of Fidel Castro to report on the Cuban revolution, and upon his return to the U.S. he was tried and convicted for “returning to the United States without a valid passport.” Worthy was again represented by Kunstler, who successfully persuaded a federal appeals court to overturn Worthy’s conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found the restrictions unconstitutional. The court held that the government could not make it a crime under the Constitution to return home without a passport. Years later, Kunstler wrote in his autobiography, My Life As A Radical Lawyer, that the Worthy passport case was his “first experience arguing an issue about which I felt passionate,” was the “first time I had ever invalidated a statute,” and that success “confirmed my faith in the justice system.”

Here’s the song and think about it in today’s Anti-Muslim world where State Department workers are accused of being Muslim Brotherhood supporters! I love the chorus!

“The Ballad of William Worthy” – Phil Ochs

Well, it’s of a bold reporter whose story I will tell
He went down to the Cuban land, the nearest place to hell
He’d been there many times before, but now the law does say
The only way to Cuba is with the CIA

William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay

Five thousand dollars or a five year sentence may well be
For a man who had the nerve to think that travelin’ is free
Oh why’d he waste his time to see a dictator’s reign
When he could have seen democracy by travelin’ on to Spain?

William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay

So, come all you good travelers and fellow-travelers, too
Yes, and travel all around the world, see every country through
I’d surely like to come along and see what may be new
But my passport’s disappearing as I sing these words to you

Well, there really is no need to travel to these evil lands
Yes, and though the list grows larger you must try to understand
Try hard not to be surprised if someday you should hear
The whole world is off limits, visit Disneyland this year

William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay