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Grand Coulee Powder Monkey
Short Song Description:
Woody Gutherie was commissioned to write songs about the building of the Grand Coulee Dam. For one month he wrote a song a day. This one has never been recorded by him or anyone else.
Long Song Description:
In May 1941, folksinger Woody Guthrie left southern California for a job in Portland, Oregon to write songs for a documentary about the dams being built on the Columbia River. Four years earlier, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) was created by Congress to market electric power from the Bonneville Dam and to construct facilities necessary to transmit that power. By 1941, the Bonneville Dam had been operational for four years and the Grand Coulee Dam was on the verge of opening, but the program had been met with much resistance from private electric companies. As a result, the government proposed a film to promote the efforts of distributing power through publicly-owned means, with the intent of encouraging the public to look favorably upon the dams and value the concept of public power. Woody was given a one-month contract to work as an "information consultant" and travelled to the Pacific Northwest to write songs that would laud the work of the BPA. For thirty days, Woody toured the Columbia River basin and wrote twenty-six songs commemorating the workers and the projects they were building. The documentary never came to fruition, but seventeen of the songs were compiled and released in 1988. The remaining nine songs were either heretofore unrecorded or lost to time.

In 2016, to commemorate the achievement, Civil Engineer and Historian Reuben Hull developed a multi-media presentation to recount the unlikely pairing of folk singer and big power: Woody Guthrie's observing, reflecting, and recording of the work and workers that he encountered during his expedition, exalting the signature civil engineering that defined grand public works and regional progress of the period. The Moon Gypsies contributed to the effort with their interpretation of the previously unrecorded "Grand Coulee Power Monkey," which honors the rugged dynamite men who blasted the earth and rock to prepare for the dam.
Lyric Credits: Woody Gutherie
Music Credits: Woody Gutherie & The Moon Gypsies
Producer Credits: The Moon Gypsies
Performance Credits: The Moon Gypsies
Song Length: 2:57
Primary Genre: Country-Traditional
Secondary Genre: Folk-Traditional
Tempo / Feel: Medium Slow (91 - 110)
Lead Vocal: Mixed Vocals
Language: English
Era: 1930 - 1939