"Third World USA"

verse 1 ©1977 De Lewellen and Lee Ruth;

chorus and verses 2-3 ©1991 Lee Ruth

MP3
Jerry Foster
Jerry Foster - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, & Steel Guitar
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original

 

Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
His car broke down today
The man said he would have to pay
More than the car was worth
To have it towed away

So he took the 8-track out
And the CB radio
Pushed it over to the side of the road
And walked away

To Third World U.S.A.
It's getting tougher everyday
The rich get rich while the poor folks pay
For 3rd World U.S.A.

--------------------------

He used to be a company man
The company had a retirement plan
No need for him to save his dough
They'll take care of him he know

Then they closed the factory down
Moved to some South American town
Where people work for almost free
Supporting the economy

Of 3rd World U.S.A.
It's getting colder everyday
The rich get out while the poor folks stay
In 3rd World U.S.A.

----------------------

Once he had a place to live
A family to which to give
A grassy yard with lots of shade
He couldn't keep the payments made


So now he's living on the street
Humiliation each time he's given food to eat
His family's scattered far and wide
Livin' on the other side

Of 3rd world U.S.A.
Once you're in you're in to stay
It's hard to make a getaway
From 3rd World U.S.A.

Once you're in you're in to stay
It's hard to make a getaway
From 3rd World U.S.A.

Will you be living there someday
In 3rd World U.S.A.

My car broke down today
The man said I had to pay
More than the car was worth
To have it towed away

So I took the 8-track out
And the CB radio
Pushed it over to the side of the road
And walked away

To Third World U.S.A.
Times are tougher everyday
The rich get rich while the poor folks pay
For 3rd World U.S.A.

--------------------------

Used to be a company man
The company had a retirement plan
No need for me to save my dough
They'll take care of me I know

Then they closed the factory down
Moved to some South American town
Where people work for almost free
Supporting the economy

Of 3rd World U.S.A.
It's getting (colder/hotter) everyday
The rich get out while the poor folks stay
In 3rd World U.S.A.

----------------------

Once I had a place to live
A family to which to give
A grassy yard with lots of shade
I couldn't keep the payments made


So now I'm living on the street
Lucky to find some food to eat
My family's scattered far and wide
Livin' on the other side

Of 3rd world U.S.A.
Once you're in you're in to stay
It's hard to make a getaway
From 3rd World U.S.A.

3rd World U.S.A.
3rd World U.S.A.
Will you be joining us someday
In 3rd World U.S.A.

Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:

When I found out about the tribute to Lee, and as I went over the songs, I soon realized that this was the song for me to record. In fact it was the insight and reality of this economic/social statement that motivated me to record. I might have been able to talk myself into recording "Hamburger Wine" if "Third World USA" had been spoken for already. I don't know. The song is clear and speaks for itself and the mental pictures and implications that accompany the words just depend on the person listening to it.

The three slide-guitar parts are an effort to acknowledge first, the poor white people; second, India, the largest third-world country; and third, the poor black community. Somehow I didn't think of the Native Americans until after the song was finished and mixed--it was then too late. It's a big project and no more recording time was available, and the tune had already been listed done when I thought of the Native American Indians. What a drag, my mistake. I sincerely apologize to the Native American community. A more sensitive worried man would not have forgotten the Indian tribes and their connection to this worried song, "Third World USA."

It is late August 1977, and I am taking the long way home to Columbia from Crested Butte, Colorado--by way of Kerrville, Corpus Christi, and Austin, Texas. During the few days I'm hanging around Austin, I take off to visit my friend De Lewellen, who's living outside of Bastrop in an old farmhouse near the Colorado River. Sometime during that day of heated air and cool water from a garden hose and big sweet juicy pears picked right off the tree, we made up the first verse of this song.

I carried that one verse around in my head for fourteen years, and then in 1991, while visiting my sister in Sacramento and finding myself with time on my hands, I added two more verses and three choruses to make it into "Third World USA." I haven't seen De since 1977, and I don't know if she ever remembered or expanded upon that verse herself. Don't think she even knows this song exists. The song is a variation on the "there but for fortune" motif, and a serious attempt to make light of the growing disparity between the lives of the haves and have-nots in our society.

Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:

Me and Lee, rumor has it that music pulled us together and music has kept us close. My spin is this. In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him, and without Him there was not even one thing made that has come into being.

The Lord Christ Jesus was even involved in designing mankind and the design included the ability to make music. So much for rumors.

Before I met Jerry in the fall of 1964, I had heard about him from friends--he had played a few songs at a local open mike event the previous spring and had blown a few minds with the quality and authenticity of his singing and playing of old blues songs. Someone even had a tape of Jerry, and he sounded great to my ears also. So when I finally met him, I was prepared to like him and his music, which I did and do. Whether he was singing blues or country or bluegrass, his natural way of singing and his high, clear, distinctive voice and his idiosyncratic touch on the guitar sounded like the real thing to my "hungry for the real thing" ears. Over the years, he's mostly lived in other places, and sometimes years have gone by between the crossings of our paths, but when we did meet up we always found much conversation and music to share. For eight years or so, he's lived in Wooldridge, MO, and I've enjoyed the opportunity to be almost-neighbors with him. When this project was initiated, Jerry was one of the first people to sign on, and he already had this song picked out. He really found his own way with it--one of the most radically changed of all the songs on the album. Surprise me! Good work.
Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:

Lee's live version of "Third World USA" was included on KOPN's twentieth-anniversary CD, "Where the River Rolls," and was mistitled as "Third World." This song was written way before the criminal activity of Enron and other corporations ever came to light. I don't think Lee was prophetic in the writing of this song but rather reflecting the world through a clear prism that goes all the way back to the company town and company store and beyond. Jerry Foster was adamant about wanting to do this song. He even called me at the radio station during a show and said he would wrestle anyone who wanted to do it. No one had claimed the song so no wrestling match was needed.

Jerry came in and did an excellent job of laying down the basic tracks leaving some space to fill. The first plan was to have Rocket Kirchner fill the breaks with a third-world banjo sound, but it just didn't fit. So plan B was to have Jerry come in and fit some steel guitar slide breaks into place. The subtle tonality of the slide guitar breaks seemed to work. This song has even more impact now, in a world with NAFTA and corporate outsourcing of American jobs. Welcome to "Third World USA."

Recorded at Pete Szkolka's Studio

Record Dates: 4/17/03 and 10/21/03

Mixed: 10/21/03

Mixed by Pete Szkolka and Steve Donofrio

 

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