A Thanksgiving Prayer from William S. Burroughs

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/24/a-thanksgiving-prayer-from-wil.html


Last I checked WSB is still dead.


But, can we be sure about Dillinger?


I’m not sure about anyone until I see a thread on it.


The boy has gone away through an invisible door.

The cavity still exists: Stein’s British ultimatum of peace or war. To the sound of alarm bells English made easy: 1, 2, 3, 4. This is the fourth lesson. Look at the map? Sky full of holes flaking like plaster. Dead folks talk dim jerky far away now.


This is from Dead City Radio, which was a pretty brilliant little project where they put new recordings of Burroughs reading his own work over music, much of which was archived recordings from the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Folks like Sonic Youth, John Cale, and Donald Fagen also contributed tracks. This one is head and shoulders the best, but others are pretty darn cool, too, like “Ah Pook the Destroyer / Brion Gysin’s All-Purpose Bedtime Story,” which has my favorite music on the album, and the segments from Naked Lunch, which gain an extra veneer of creepiness and menace from the combination of the music and Burroughs’ droning voice.

Highly recommended, especially if you’ve never heard anything from it but this.


i repost this every year !! twice this year !! THANKS again , boing boing ( and that is , to the entire staff , writers and editors and programmers and dragons , thanks also to the many fine commentators drawn hither to this " award-winning zine, blog and directory ( and compendium ) of wonderful things " )


My new favorite… written in 1935:


Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


I always make a point of watching this when you post it every year; strangely comforting for a non-american.


Many times WSB’s voice has been put to music (a good number by myself) I like his voice raw for personal listening.

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That Langston Hughes is a yearly read for me on the Fourth of July.


An antidote from '76.


Another old favourite is Spearhead / Michael Franti’s project “Spare Ass Annie and other tales”. And especially the very wonderful "Words of advice for young people"


Here he is with Material…

ETA: Hmmmm… this is actually from the remixed version, The Road to the Western Lands. Not sure I approve.

Yeah, I didn’t say, or mean to imply, that this was the first or only time that happened. What I thought was neat about Dead City Radio was the source of most of the music. The archived material from the NBC Symphony Orchestra was the kind of anonymous, vaguely patriotic music that TV stations used to play all the time, and that had basically disappeared from the airwaves by the time this came out in 1990. I think it provides a perfect, nicely contrasting bed for Burroughs’ work, generally even more so than when more contemporary artists try to write something “appropriate” for it.

The remixed version of that album was no where near as good as the original. Come to think of it, that Material album is really the only WSB voiceover to music album I’ve liked.

Taste varies. See a few lines above within this very comment.

Personally I never tried to fit entire WSB texts into music, just connecting edited snippets on a theme. Fitting words to music rather than what was being done with Dead City Radio.

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