On Mermaid Avenue (1998), Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote and recorded music for some of the 3,000 tuneless lyrics Woody Guthrie left behind. The stunning result was so much more than a reverent, Pete-Seeger-and-friends tribute album could ever be: the great Guthrie expanded in our cultural imagination and introduced to a new generation.
I'm prone to the occasional rant about how much I dislike the movement folk music of the 1960s—its lack of subtlety, its odd mix of the earnestly humorless and the cornball, its endless verses of repetition. But I love Woody Guthrie, who was born 100 years ago today.
Guthrie was a generation older than the 60s troubadours and a singular influence on many of them, none of whom shared his gifts and sensibilities.
Bob Dylan released his first album 50 years ago this week. That
self-titled debut is not the Dylan record anyone listens to most--it
includes only two original tunes--and as Andy Greene details, it was not a smashing success. But it opened the door for Dylan to come back just months later and record The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, which propelled Dylan's staggering career.