Tomorrow being Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, tonight we revisit some of his tunes and some of those he influenced. First a wry number from the man himself: Philadelphia Lawyer. A tale of an East Coast lawyer, a Hollywood maid, and a gun-totin' Reno cowhand name of Wild Bill, with "ten notches carved on his gun." "Now tonight back in old Pennsylvania/Amongst her beautiful pines/There's one less Philadelphia lawyer/In old Philadelphia tonight."
Percy's Song, written by Bob Dylan, is well-performed by Guthrie's son, Arlo. It is in the Guthrie tradition of left-leaning social protest. A mean judge metes out an unjust sentence. Arlo's City of New Orleans is a classic slice of Americana, and a great song, right up there with Don McLean's American Pie and Woody's This Land is Your Land. There is a element of silly socialist utopianism in the latter, but also something genuine and worthwhile.
Lacking as it does the proper American cowboy resonance, 'Elliot Charles Adnopoz' was ditched by its bearer who came to call himself 'Ramblin' Jack Elliot.' Born in 1931 in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who wanted him to become a doctor, young Adnopoz rebelled, ran away, and became a protege of Woody Guthrie. If it weren't for Ramblin' Jack, Guthrie would be nowhere near as well-known as he is today.
Pretty Boy Floyd. "As through this life you ramble, as through this life you roam/You'll never see an outlaw drive a family from their home." No? An example of the knee-jerk tendency of lefties invariably to take the side of the underdog regardless of whether right or wrong. It's as if weakness justifies.
Ramblin' Jack does a haunting version of Dylan's Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. It grows on you. Give it a chance. Cigarettes and Whisky and Wild Woman. Soul of a Man. Dylan's unforgettable, Don't Think Twice.
And now the bard himself,the most distinguished Jewish 'son' of Woody Guthrie, who absorbed a hundred influences and made something new, Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota. Song to Woody. It Take a Lot to Laugh. Video of Dylan's meeting with Guthrie as the latter lay dying of Huntington's Chorea in a New Jersey hospital. I Shall Be Released. Rollin' and Tumblin.' Not Dark Yet. "Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear/It's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there."
Finally, one more from Woody. Hard Travelin.