Tunes of turmoil Patrick Dodd writes songs of social justice from a human perspective “To see American poverty, all you have to do is go to your average reservation,” says Dodd, who grew up on an American Indian reservation in Oklahoma and writes songs about social justice from a human perspective. By Mandy Valencia For the Tidings  Posted: 2:00 AM October 18, 2012   Guitarist and social justice songwriter Patrick Dodd has dedicated his life to making music about the people most in need to further a dialogue among Americans. The main focus of everything I've ever done is for working people," says Dodd. "I was raised with the music of Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard. The guys that sang original labor tunes. His lyrics touch on topics that range from environmental issues to homelessness, battered women and Native American affairs, all written from a human perspective. I think great art is written about people, not issues," says Dodd. "They are easier to understand if you filter them through the eyes of a human being. Issues only invite argument. A longtime resident of Oregon, the 62-year-old now lives in Wilderville outside Grants Pass. You know in one winter in Southern Oregon whether you're going to like it or not, the first time the sun disappears for a month," says Dodd, "It takes no prisoners. The son of a jazz guitarist, Dodd spent much of his childhood on an Indian reservation in northern Oklahoma, where his grandmother lived. Later, he found that he was not of Native American descent; his family had been so poor it had no other place to live besides the reservation. But it was the time spent on the reservation that most impacted his life and his music. I don't think that Americans see rural poverty very often," says Dodd. "The Indian approach to the view of America is not only different, but addictive, once you really start to know what happened and know how these people responded to it, and get to know their culture on their terms. Dodd says he doesn't remember ever not playing the guitar, but that he started playing probably around age 4, writing his first song at age 6. As an adult, he was well on his way to a successful music career when he moved to Austin, Texas. They call Austin the grad school of songwriters," says Dodd. He then started going to environmental rallies, only to see that there was a missing musical element to the gatherings. I realized the speakers were current, the poets were current, the audio/visual was current and then the music came from Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly and from people that weren't there," says Dodd, "So I decided to write about this time period and what's happening now. In the '70s, Dodd was asked to write songs for the activist group the American Indian Movement, something his childhood on the reservation had prepared him for. To see American poverty, all you have to do is go to your average reservation. The income is 60 to 70 percent lower than the average," says Dodd. "The despair is absolutely palpable. For me is wasn't as much of an awakening as it was a call. They are faced with a world that doesn't meet the world view that their elders faced, so Native suicides are always way higher than the rest of the curve, and when you see that even as a child, that makes an impression. Dodd wrote a song called "Long May You Ride," about five chiefs who rode from California to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. He also wrote the theme song for Food Not Bombs that is downloaded about 2,000 times each year the organization celebrates its anniversary. People tell you that this music will never sell in the marketplace, as if that's the only use for music," he says. "But I have seen music support people long enough to change bad laws. Even though the subject matter of many of his tunes can be heart-wrenching, Dodd delivers them in a way that is humanizing and inspiring. He's also learned to have a little fun sometimes, too. A Native American taught me to never let it get so bad that you forget how to laugh because you're beat that day," says Dodd. "Never let it rob your sense of humor. Your sense of humor is part of your dignity, that's what he taught me. In that same humorous vein, Dodd performed a song called "Hillbilly Heaven" for the Tidings Cafe on the banks of Waters Creek in Wilderville. Dodd has two recorded albums. The first, from 1992 called "Crimes Against The State," is downloaded frequently by people in Japan who sing it on karaoke machines to express social unrest in an acceptable way in their culture, he says. The album's cover is a photo of Dodd's daughter being arrested at a protest as a young girl. He also recorded a two-disc album for his 50th birthday called "Songs of the Life and Times of the Great American Outlaw. I don't have a single regret about what I decided to do," says Dodd. Dodd will perform with Silas R. Shand and Kyle Cregan at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at Johnny B's, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford. Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at Related Stories Patrick Dodd - Tidings Cafe Excerpt from the Patrick Dodd interview ” - Mandy Valencia

Ashland Daily Tidings

 | Oct 11 2011 | Posted in Entertainment, Music People from many backgrounds have been inspired to “occupy” cities across the nation since Occupy Wall Street began its protest in New York roughly three weeks ago. It was no surprise to see the people of Ashland join in the movement last Thursday, Oct. 6. Roughly 250 protesters gathered in Ashland Plaza. While speeches were being delivered, many people raised signs proclaiming their dissatisfaction with the current economic situation and corporate corruption. Musicians performed while passing drivers honked in support of the crowd. A free dinner was provided for those who stuck around as the evening got colder, and singer/songwriter Patrick Dodd serenaded the crowd with country-folk labor songs. If you’re a working man or woman in this day and age, songs from Patrick’s latest album, “Workers of the World Unite,” such as “Workin’ Stiffs Song,” “Don’t Need No Boss,” or “Hard Times (Hangin’ Around),” should capture your emotions and your mind. The seventeen songs on the album all focus on the problems of labor. Dodd is a very talented songwriter, able to marry what seems like a never-ending stream of clever and insightful turns of phrase with catchy, sing-along melodies. Many of his songs’ themes draw from events during the long history of labor struggles. One song in particular, called “Walk on Wobbly Walk On,” tells the story of 100 Wobblies (members of the International Workers of the World), from Portland who decided to join their brothers down in Fresno, Calif. to support a strike there. The men hopped a south-bound freight train but were caught and kicked off in Ashland during the dead of the winter in 1911. The Siskiyou Mountains were covered in snow. However, the men decided to continue the 150-mile trek by foot and eventually made it to Fresno where they were faced with gunfire and assault by strike breakers. As Patrick begins his set, your body sways to the comfort of his sweet music and as you listen to the words he sings you feel a strong connection of solidarity. One of the first musicians Patrick reminds you of is legendary Texas folksinger Townes Van Zandt. Turns out, that’s no coincidence. Dodd says that Townes was one of his teachers in Austin, along with the sadly underappreciated Blaze Foley, and jokes that, “We used to call Austin grad school for song writers. It was a place that you could hang out with Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley and Guy Clark.” Despite his father having been a professional musician and discouraging Patrick from becoming one himself, Dodd stayed stubborn and now has 30 years experience in songwriting and activism. He wrote his first song at the age of 6 and was inspired by the folk singers of his grandparent’s generation, such as Woody Guthrie, Odeta and Pete Seeger. One morning, while living in Colorado, he decided he didn’t want to do anything anymore other than write music. So, he headed out and ended up working in Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tenn. His activist career began when he began receiving frequent calls from his buddies here in Oregon, where he had spent most of his life, saying that they needed help because there had been a change in timber policy and the woods were being eaten alive. As he attended meetings and rallies he realized that the activists’ songs were not current. He and several others began writing songs that were more relevant for the times. After letting it be known that he would be willing to write songs for various causes he was approached by numerous organizations and began writing songs for causes such as AIDS and the American Indian Movement. Patrick feels strongly about the role of the musician as an activist and has a wealth of inspiring activist moments he has been a part of. However, he believes that his “success rate isn’t garnered on whether everybody listens at this moment. It’s garnered on whether or not I empower the people that are actually trying to change these laws.” Having been a Wobblie himself for many years, he believes strongly in the power of labor unions and says that he thinks “the biggest lie that was wasted on the working population was that unions were bad.” He adds that, “the potential change is in worker discontent” and that “the younger the worker, the more potential there is for change.” As a previous Marine, he believes that “wars are always a group of working stiffs being told to kill a group of other working stiffs. I think one of the best things we could do is unionize every army in the world. If you want to go to war, have a vote!” Patrick can be seen hanging out or performing at Occupy Ashland in between a few other performances he has coming up in Eugene and possibly Medford. You can also listen to his music free on Patrick’s website, Or tune into the weekly outlaw radio show produced by Patrick and his lovely wife Mary, where they perform as Slim and Betty Jean, playing music, performing comedy and discussing current issues at on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. (many of their past shows are archived on the site, and the two have plans to archive the entire series).” - Idona Graham

Patrick Dodd's Political Prowess

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