Thoughts of the “Freedom Summer” 50 years ago, lead to Eric Andersen’s “Thirsty Boots”


Mario Savio on Sproul Hall steps, 1966

Today, I wrote at Socialstudious about the murder of the three Mississippi Civil Rights workers in the summer of 1964. The trio of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered on June 21-22, 1964 and it took 44 days until their bodies were found in the banks of an earthen dam, near the murder site.

In that post, I also wrote about Mario Savio who was a political activist and key leader in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. He is possibly best known for his speeches, with the most famous being his”put your bodies upon the gears” address given at Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley on December 2, 1964. In the summer of 1964 after the disappearance of the above trio, Savio joined the “Freedom Summer” volunteers. During that summer Savio….

….was involved in helping African Americans register to vote.[6] He also taught at a freedom school for black children in McComb, Mississippi.[7] In July, Savio, another white civil-rights activist and a black acquaintance were walking down a road in Jackson and attacked by two men. They attempted to press charges but the case went nowhere until President Lyndon Johnson, who had only recently passed the Civil Rights Act, urged the FBI to look into it as a civil-rights violation. Eventually one of the attackers was found, fined $50 and charged with misdemeanor assault Read More

Thoughts of  the murdered trio,  Mario Savio, and the “Freedom Summer”  initially took my mind musically to Eric Andersen‘s song “Thirsty Boots” but then as I wrote the post, Phil Ochs’ “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” seemed, as, if not more appropriate. But I could not listen to one of my favorite all-time songs, so here’s a little information on “Thirsty Boots”  From Wikipedia….

“Thirsty Boots” is a Civil Rights era folksong by American singer-songwriter Eric Andersen that first appeared on his 1966 album ‘Bout Changes ‘n’ Things. According to the album’s liner notes, the song “was written to a civil rights worker-friend. Having never gone down to Mississippi myself, I wrote the song about coming back.” Read More

Through the years  Judy Collins has always said, that Andersen wrote the song’s last verse on a matchbook cover while in her bathroom. I never knew, that  Bob Dylan also recorded this song for his album Self Portrait, but it did not make the final cut. That’s ashame because in my opinion it may have helped the album! Additionally, “State of Mississippi” and “Boots” are connected through Phil Ochs. Andersen has said in interviews, that Phil encouraged Eric to finish the song , and recordings of the song made, after Phil’s suicide, were dedicated to Phil!

Here’s a performance of “Thirsty Boots” by Eric Andersen, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie and Tom Rush, and a fine quartet they are!!