Tag Archives: Woody Guthrie

The Ballad Of October 16th is still relevant and controversial

I’ve been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and I’m astonished by how much I didn’t know about that era of American history. One example: a Gallup Poll from early 1939 revealed that 84-85% of American protestants and Catholics “opposed offering sanctuary to European refugees. So did more than one-quarter of American Jews.” This was after the well-reportedNight of Broken Glass” in November of 1938 when Hitler’s goons ransacked Jewish homes, shops, and synagogues through Germany and Austria, killing dozens of Jews and imprisoning thousands more.

I knew that Americans had become isolationist in the wake of World War I, but I had assumed that the so-called Greatest Generation had risen to the occasion when faced with the atrocities of the Nazis. Not so much. It’s shocking to see photos of young American protesters marching with “Make peace with Hitler” signs. FDR reinstated conscription and on October 16, 1940, American men had to register for the draft, and most Americans were not happy about it. Before I watched this episode I had assumed it was just lefty radicals like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger who opposed the war. Their band the Almanac Singers recorded one of my favorite protest songs, “Ballad Of October 16th.”

The Almanac Singers - Ballad Of October 16th

Oh, Franklin Roosevelt told the people how he felt
We damn near believed what he said
He said, “I hate war and so does Eleanor
But we won’t be safe ’til everybody’s dead.”

Continue reading The Ballad Of October 16th is still relevant and controversial

Jay Farrar recording Mermaid Avenue Vol. 6

The Austin Chronicle reports that Jay Farrar is working on the next volume of unpublished lyrics from the Woody Guthrie Archives. Farrar, along with Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Anders Parker (Varnaline), and Will Johnson (Centro-matic), recorded the album in New York in March, and it “is currently in the mixing stage.”

“Jay sent me a priority mail package full of the lyrics, and I opened it at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Johnson recalls. “Within 17 minutes, I had already documented this one called ‘Chorine My Sheba Queen’ to the recording machine. That speaks far more about the song than anything I did. The lyrics struck me in a way that the music sounded automatic. It made such sense to my soul and my spirit. It’s got an empty and regretful tone but in a very beautiful way. I just latched onto it.”

The Guardian claims that this is “the third Mermaid Avenue collection,” but that’s not accurate. It would be at least the sixth seeing how the Klezmatics have released two albums in the series (Happy Joyous Hanukkah and Wonder Wheel), and Jonatha Brooke recently released another (The Works). Fact checking is hard!

Regardless, it still feels odd that Farrar would invite the inevitable accusations of following in the footsteps of his former bass player in Uncle Tupelo. Then again, I never would’ve thought he’d record with the guy from Death Cab either…

MP3: Jonatha Brooke – “All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me” (lyrics by Woody Guthrie)

Jay Farrar: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Woody Guthrie: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Jonatha Brooke: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Via lhb.

New Wilco – The Happy Banker

WSJ TweedyThey have a new album—Wilco (The Album)coming in late June, but you won’t have to wait until then to get yourself some new Wilco. A new cover of Woody Guthrie’s “The Jolly Banker” is available now on their website with suggested donation of $2 to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives. (GLONO donated $10, so a couple of you can slide by without guilt if you can’t scrounge the dough.)

Jeff Tweedy talks about how Woody’s Depression-era song is once again timely on American Public Media’s Marketplace.

Wilco: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, web.

Continue reading New Wilco – The Happy Banker

Jonatha Brooke – There's More True Lovers Than One

MP3: Jonatha Brooke – “There’s More True Lovers Than One” from The Works, out today on Bad Dog Records. This is the first album of previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie set to original music written and performed by a woman.

Jonatha Brooke: Web.