Malvina Reynolds: Song Lyrics and Poems  



Skagit Valley Forever

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1970 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1998. a.k.a. "Skagit Valley." When Malvina was a guest on Art Finleyís radio program in Vancouver, B.C., Art told her about a demonstration the next day against the flooding of Skagit Valley. She wrote the song, but because she was on tour and couldnít stay to sing it, a local singer did instead.

During the war in Vietnam, Malvina went to Vancouver to sing at a conference organized by the American group, Women for Peace, and the Canadian group, Voices of Women, where Canadians and Americans could hear a touring group of North Vietnamese women, who could not enter the United States. She wrote up the whole experience; here is the part that relates to “Skagit Valley Forever” and “There’s a Bottom Below."

The Ingleses were good friends of Malvina and her husband, Bud, in Vancouver. 

November 25, 1970

We made the Northwest tour a couple of weeks ago. I was dubious about it, as I always am. But these things are arranged for months beforehand, so there’s nothing much I can do about the feeling, “What am I doing this for?” Good thing.

Voices of Women, Canada’s Women For Peace, had arranged a lot of publicity set-ups for me, to push the peace conference. First thing we got off the plane, we went with Kay Ingles to the airport inn for an interview with CBC television news. Pleasant man videotaped a long interview, and much of it was used. They have an easier way with television time than we do in the States.

Then we went directly to the studios of CKNW where Art Finley has a prize-winning news program. We knew each other from San Francisco, where he was Major Art on one of the best children’s TV shows at the time. He still has a syndicated cartoon feature that appears in the San Francisco Chronicle, and lots of San Franciscans come to the Finley Christmas party every year.

We taped an interview, and at the end Art said, “Now we’ll take ten minutes out while Malvina writes a song about Skagit Valley.”

He briefed me about the Valley, which was to be flodded by Seattle Light for an auxiliary power source.

I did write a song before dinner, and Vera Johnson, Canadian songwriter singer who was at the Inglises, picked it up.

There was to be a demonstration at the Valley against the destruction of the place, destruction already okayed by Minister of the Interior Ray Williston, and the provincial givernment.

I couldn’t go to the demonstration because I had a concert in Victoria.

Vera phoned me at the Strathcona Hotel. The kids at Inglis’ had fooled around and erased part of the song from the cassette, so I sang it for her with the new last verse. I’d written that about four in the morning after I’d taped the song for Art, so I called him in the morning and we retaped it before I had to get the ferry for Victoria.

They had expected a few hundred at the Valley demonstration. It’s a rugged 75 mile trip over the mountains. 

Over two thousand showed up, and the camera got them all, in the fine Valley setting, marching with signs. One sign was the enchanting face of a baby badger over the caption “Help!”

Nancy and I have a special feeling about badgers, ever since Japan. It seems that the badger is the Br’er Rabbit cum Reynard of Japanese folklore. During the tour we would look in the stores for a badger figure of the kind we liked, being thwarted at every turn by the men in the company. “This is not the place to buy badger; such and such a city is famous for badger figures.” We never found the city, or we got there with no time to sdhop. We finally settled for a couple of miniatures I found in a booth in the lobby of the Kabuki Theater.

In Vancouver, Vera had taught the people in the busses going to the demonstration at Skagit Valley, the chorus of my song, and the news cameras got her singing the whole thing, the cameras moving to the people singing along, the dad with the kid on his shoulder. There was a rustic carved wooden sign that said “Skagit Park”

Bud had suggested to Art Finley that the movement give the campaign to save the Valley a positive thrust, demanding that the area be turned into a park. Art had picked up the idea and moved it on. 

David Brousson,member of the provincial legislature for Vancouver, a fine handsome man and eloquent, spoke at the rally against the dam project. He came backstage later at me Vancouver concert, full house, to thank me for what I had done for the cause. I was glad he was there to catch the show, as was Jeanie Read (who had written the strong inverview which ran a half page with pictures in the Province) and her mother.

As I have said, the best recent articles aboutme—admiring, to be sure, but also thought through and percemtive, not merely a condescending throwing together of press handouts—were done by women, young women. The one in the San Francisco Chronicle, one in the Co-Op News, in the Province, in the University of California student weekly, and the album review in the New York Times.

Art told me that other stations had sent over messengers to get tapes of “Skagit Valley Forever.” There were more newspaper interviews, and I was called to do a show for a CBC-TV feature program with a singer-comedian as MC staged this night in The Olde Celler, a coffee house in downtown Vancouver…Well, we were in this celler club…with a great audience of young people, cameras, lights, coils of arm-thick cables all over the floor already crowded with tables, chairs and people.

The show would be taped for a later showing.

The MC told me beforehand I could sing anything I wanted “except the Skagit Valley song”—it was a local issue, he said, CBC didn’t want to get into anything controversial—at lease, not on a variety program.

“Most of the other songs on the show are rather low key,” he said. “Could you sing something bright and up-beat?”

Sure. When the cameras were on me, I quoted him and said, “By a lucky chance, I just wrote a song on the way here, that will be just right.” And I sang “Bottom Below.” That’s a down song that makes everybody laugh, and the cameras picked up on the joyful young faces singing the chorus with me.

I sang several other songs on the show, including “We Hate to See Them go,” but I learned later that they had used “There’s a Bottom Below,” and that pleased me. I’ts bright and up-beat all right, because it brings out into the ight, and makes a social—that is, formulated and expressed in words—phenomenon, of our secret pain, personal, inner and intolerable.

 


There's a fine green valley not far from Vancouver,
Home of the black bear, the marten and the cougar.
It's the tree rich valley where the Skagit River flows,
A home for God's creatures since Heaven only knows.

Chorus:
Skagit Valley, Skagit Valley,
Ray Williston is selling you away.
Skagit Valley, Skagit Valley,
They would turn you to a mud pond
To run the Coca Cola coolers in Seattle, U.S.A.

Well, the parks are getting fewer, the trees are getting thin,
The cities are all reaching out to take the wildwood in.
The world is getting poorer with every mile they clear,
And they're selling Skagit acres for five dollars fifty cents a year.

(Chorus)

Oh my sisters and my brothers in this shining northern land,
It's time to get together and take each other's hand,
And ring around the wilderness to keep the gangs away
Who would ravage our sweet country for a shameful pocketful of pay.

Skagit Valley, Skagit Valley,
No grabber will get you for a prize.
Skagit Valley, Skagit Valley,
We'll let no vandal drown you,
We'll keep you as we found you,
British Columbia's forest paradise.


Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
---- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook
---- There's Music in the Air: Songs for the Middle-Young

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
---- Sing Out!, Volume 21(1) (1971), pp. 24-25

Malvina Reynolds recording(s) on which this song is performed:
---- The Ultimate Pollution
---- Mama Lion
---- Ear to the Ground
---- listen to youtube.com video


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