Posts Tagged ‘Woody Guthrie’

Monday Medley

What we read after Carlos Beltran’s “foul ball”…

Monday Medley

What we read while not Googling “Santorum”…

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #108: See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

Why is a 20-year-old kid singing about keeping his grave clean? This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Dylan’s first album: His songs don’t feel honest; they sound as if he is trying to duplicate the emotions of other singers instead of translating his own feelings.

There has been some discussion recently, thanks to Joni Mitchell, of Bob Dylan’s honesty. Mitchell told the LA Times that, “Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception.” This is not an entirely new complaint about Dylan. People have often accused him of being phony or deceptive, both in his songs and with the media. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #39: Song to Woody

At the end of “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” the best episode of the most recent season of Mad Men, Don Draper tries to comfort his daughter, who is scared of the dark. She is scared of the dark because she thinks that her new baby brother is inhabited by the ghost of their grandfather. Together they go to the baby’s room to look at it, and Don comforts her by telling her that the baby is not her Grandpa: “This is your brother. We don’t know who he is yet, or what he’s going to be. And that is a wonderful thing.” And then the episode fades to black and “Song to Woody” starts playing over the closing credits.

Bob Dylan’s “Song to Woody” is really a song about identity—or, more accurately, it’s about the lack of identity that comes with youth. It’s about how people define themselves before they’ve done anything important. And it is the most beautiful and brilliant song on Dylan’s first album. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #116: Freight Train Blues

There’s a scene in I’m Not There in which the character known as Woody, played by Marcus Carl Franklin and designed to embody the youthful, mythical Bob Dylan, hops onto a train with nothing but a guitar case labeled “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Once there, though, Woody finds himself confronted by unsavory characters who are generally unsympathetic to Woody’s romantic notions of life on the run. Scared, Woody briefly abandons his life on the run for life as an imposter with a middle-class family. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #95: Talkin’ New York

Greil Marcus once remarked that it is somewhat surprising that none of the puppet masters who got their hands on Elvis Presley ever tried to fabricate or glamorize his upbringing, the way some teen idols did in those days. The simple explanation for this, according to Marcus, is that no embellishment could have improved on the real thing. The story of a poor kid from Memphis who worked as a truck driver and turned into a rock star really couldn’t be improved upon.

Well, I feel like the same thing is true about Dylan. A kid from the Midwest drops out of college to go visit his idol—Woody Guthrie—who’s dying in a hospital. He starts performing in Greenwich Village and, by the time he’s 23 years old, he’s become the biggest folk music star in the world. You can make that stuff up, but it would sound like a cliché. Continue reading