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Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel

9 May 2013
House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... for you and me. And so an angry song of protest and a hymn to trespass became part of a celebration of the American Dream: you don’t have to be Gramsci to recognise cultural hegemony at work here. WoodyGuthrie wrote ‘This Land Is Your Land’ – originally titled ‘God Blessed America’ – in February 1940, in response to the sentiments of Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’: Let us ...

Franklin D, listen to me

J. Hoberman: Popular (Front) Songs

17 September 1998
Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-53 
edited by Ronald Cohen and Dave Samuelson.
Bear Family Records, DM 390, June 1996
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... several CBS folk music shows as well. The younger Lomax helped mould the performing careers of three artists who feature extensively in Songs for Political Action – the Dust Bowl troubadour WoodyGuthrie, the cabaret bluesman Josh White and the self-invented folk bard Pete Seeger. The Oklahoma-born Guthrie, the most enduring of the three, was the culmination of those country protest singers – the ...

Diary

Philip Horne and Danny Karlin: Million Dollar Bashers

22 June 1989
... It is as though Dylan himself has become an imitator, although we should recognise that imitation has been a driving force in his creative life. He recently contributed to an album commemorating WoodyGuthrie and Leadbelly, both acknowledged precursors. Of Guthrie he has said: ‘There was a time when I did nothing but his songs. I mean ... he’s written so many (laughs). I knew them all. I was ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales

21 October 2004
... to set fire to these people’). But what he seems to object to most is the overidentification of the songs with their singer. As he wrote in the sleevenotes to The Times They Are A-Changin’, ‘WoodyGuthrie was my last idol . . . because he . . . taught me/face to face/that men are men/shatterin’ even himself/as an idol.’ Or in Chronicles: a song ‘might vary in meaning and it might not ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade

1 December 2016
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... intensity pervades his songs.’ Dylan himself has compared his voice to the howl of a coyote. The album’s best-known track is ‘House of the Risin’ Sun’, a traditional song recorded by WoodyGuthrie and Lead Belly among others, here performed in a version he learned from Dave van Ronk (the folk singer lightly fictionalised in the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis). It’s a haunting song ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan

6 November 2003
Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... starts out “I started out”), all the lines (odd and even) rhyme – something that is not true of any previous verses’ (it’s preceded by a harmonica solo, which also helps). And in ‘Song to Woody’, ‘the first time, the only time, then, that a rhyme has returned’ is in the last verse: ‘This is an arc completed, not a feeling vacated.’ ‘Rhymes and rhythms and cadences,’ Ricks ...

Pulp

Scott Bradfield

14 December 1995
Jim Thompson Omnibus: The Getaway, The Killer inside Me, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 
Picador, 570 pp., £7.99, November 1995, 3 303 34288 1Show More
Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson 
by Robert Polito.
Knopf, 543 pp., $30, October 1995, 0 394 58407 4
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... throwing his first unsuccessful novel out the window of a bus, Thompson made a couple of mad-dash trips to New York, hastily typed out some opening chapters and a plot summary, and with the help of WoodyGuthrie, sold Now and on Earth in 1941. But despite a few good reviews – and two more books published over the next decade – Thompson didn’t hit his novelistic stride until the early Fifties ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem

20 February 2014
Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... reliquary of the totems of America’s East Coast left: Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln; Greenwich Village cafés of the 1950s and 1960s, full of the apostles and understudies of WoodyGuthrie and Dave Von Ronk; quiz shows and sit-coms; the recently extinct chess clubs of MacDougal and Thompson Streets; the New York Mets. At its best, the collagist method captures historical moods ...
23 May 1991
The Dylan Companion 
edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman.
Macmillan, 338 pp., £10.99, April 1991, 0 333 49826 7
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Bob Dylan: Performing Artist. Vol. I: 1960-73 
by Paul Williams.
Xanadu, 310 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 1 85480 044 2
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Dylan: Behind the Shades 
by Clinton Heylin.
Viking, 528 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 670 83602 8
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The Bootleg Series: Vols I-III (rare and unreleased) 1961-1991 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £24.95, April 1991
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... appliance store. He wove all kinds of fanciful tales about his childhood: he was an orphan; he’d run away from home at 12; he’d joined a carnival, worked as a farmhand, had played out West with WoodyGuthrie, with Gene Vincent, with Blind Lemon Jefferson ... He was soon even mythologising his own early days in New York, claiming to Shelton, who swallowed the story whole, that he spent his first ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip

2 December 2010
... amaranth, grain elevators and silos of Kansas. Dead cows by the side of the road. Clouds shaped like cows. A hawk glides over the Boone Creek Baptist church. We’re crossing the Ozarks, listening to WoodyGuthrie: Hitler wrote to Lindy, said ‘Do your very worst,’ Lindy started an outfit that he called America First In Washington, in Washington. We pull into the Super 8 in Springfield, Missouri ...

Crapper

Thomas Lynch

21 March 1996
... numbers in the Nixon lotto so I was free to go. What made me so cocksure was the knowledge that my parents would bail me out if I got too deep into trouble. So it wasn’t exactly like Kerouac or WoodyGuthrie but I was, nonetheless, on the road. Or more precisely, flying the friendly skies. When I located my cousins Tommy and Nora Lynch – brother and sister, bachelor and spinster – they lived ...
15 December 2005
Plat du Jour 
by Matthew Herbert.
Accidental
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... in the name of a natural order. Its classic exponent was a singer with an acoustic guitar – an opinionated troubadour. A folk instrument was required to channel the judgment of nature. When WoodyGuthrie wrote a slogan on his guitar in the 1940s – ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ – the really surprising word was ‘machine’. The piano, though acoustic, is not a folk instrument. Not being ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family

16 February 2017
... were part of his inheritance. Fred Trump was arrested for participating in a violent Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927; he had Mob ties and flagrantly discriminated against blacks when renting out housing. WoodyGuthrie, his most famous tenant, wrote about his landlord in the first literary work on a Trump, ‘Old Man Trump’:I supposeOld Man Trump knowsJust how muchRacial hatehe stirred upIn the bloodpot ...

On the Brink

James Lever: Philip Roth

28 January 2010
The Humbling 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 140 pp., £12.99, November 2009, 978 0 224 08793 3
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... to accentuate his growing insecurity. Nonetheless, out of the blue, he suddenly feels all his old confidence return: ‘he imagined Pegeen having a healthy baby the very month that he opened at the Guthrie Theater in the role of James Tyrone … The stretch of bad luck was over.’ Axler is completely restored to himself and consults a specialist about the potential hazards of conceiving a child at his ...

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