TSP103 - Transcendent Tunes: Woody and Arlo on the rails.
This then Joel just having a good time together having a great time telling stories and loving the music that they produced and the whole art of telling stories through songs. It's really somewhat of a dying art. Oh Bow that you're listening to the silk podcast perspectives on art and technology with Peter J and Harry posner episode one hundred three transcendent tunes would he arlo on the rails. The land is your land. Land is my land in California. The New York Guy Land Redwood bar is the Gulf stream waters. This land was made for you and me. I don't know this is really a story about trains as much as it is about woody in some ways isn't it well. It's about trains in both cases with Father Woodrow Guthrie and recovering kind of father son do oh today father being woodrow Woody Guthrie and son being arlo Guthrie and a couple of their songs that that are kind of like anthems away doing woody Guthrie's this land is Your Land Yup which Pete Seeger also made famous among others and others <hes> and we're doing our little Guthrie's city of New Orleans now he didn't write the song but he made the song famous <hes> we're GonNa talk about those tunes those performers the writers of those songs and kind of wide. We feel that important <hes> more store begins in nineteen twelve in Oklahoma Ma Oklahoma July fourteenth nineteen twelve woodrow Wilson Guthrie was the second son of Charles and Nora Bell Guthrie who by the way was named after Woodrow Wilson the Democratic candidate who would go on to become president of the United States in one thousand nine hundred thirteen and as <hes> woody later told concert goers quote and my father was a hard fist fighting Woodrow Wilson Democrat so Woodrow Wilson was my name both parents were we're musically oriented and taught him a wide range of folksongs which he also learned to play on his guitar and Harmonica is early years were really filled with tragedy and personal loss. He lost his older sister Clara. One of four other siblings followed by fire that burned down his family home. His father was ruined financially and if that wasn't enough his mother was also institutionalized suffering from Huntington's disease the same disease which would also eventually and what he's life right by nineteen twenty six when he was fourteen woody and three of his remaining siblings were pretty much left to themselves and their father went to work in Texas to pay his debts over the next few years as a teenager Guthrie lives with various families and Oklahoma and turns to busking in the streets for food or money so some of his influences come from this hard times in America <hes> at the Depression Nineteen twenty nine the dust bowl in the thirties and well he jumped train Salat like a Hobo dn working America is suffering terribly is witnessing all of this. The abject poverty is living that poverty away so a lot of his <hes> raging against SD inequality and justice for workers comes out of that comes a bit later because at that time he's just busy surviving right he visits southern California in these places they called Hoover Bills Dell's Oh yeah what's that who bills were like shantytowns that were almost symbolic of the depression right. They were all over the country on the shores of the Hudson River New York to the valleys of California because the unemployment win rate at the Depression peak at twenty five percent so the common man many many skilled people were out of work and they were route picking whatever they could do to survive and the name Hoover in Whoville is attributed to President Hoover who was the president during the depression and hoover or the policies of government were largely blamed for the conditions of depression. Okay a particular Whoville were the story by John Steinbeck. Oh if my Samora oh great survivors in nineteen thirty nine that's were sore is developed. Okay so you get a sense of the timing here were nearing the end of the depression but the depression officially ended in nineteen thirty nine us at ten ten year long depression. That's incredible when you think about a whole decade of people suffering so he really sang his way across the country didn't he while 1937 Guthrie Lanza job with partner maxine lefty Lou Khorasan as a radio performer of traditional folk music on K._f.. V._D._I. in Los Angeles considered a very liberal station for the Times yeah and they soon garner a loyal following from the disenfranchised Oh keys living in and migrant camps across California originally from Oklahoma at his populace sentiments founder away into his songs and he had a very interesting saying written on his guitar didn't he. This machine kills fascists which I think is a pretty interesting and provocative and powerful political statement this wunderlist that he has California yeah which is developing in the last three or four years of the nineteen thirties any moves to New York Yep and in New York he's warmly embraced by leftist starts right they really like his <hes> particular energy and his focus so he collaborates with the likes of Alan Lomax Tom and lead belly oh lead belly yes and did seger believe it or not and we'll gear. This is a very young pizza girl he suit yeah and he takes up social causes and he actually helps establish publish folk music okay as a music genre right so he wrote what is more than three thousand songs they range they say more than a thousand and some people as high as three thousand so safely can save thousands because he wrote everywhere and he wrote prolifically and he would hit strides you it'd moments where he would just right all the time and a lot of these writings have never even been discovered in a sense they've been on the back of Napkins Boxes Yep wherever he wrote them right on people say that someone is going to be very fortunate or one day and come into a box on an attic always material laid out somewhere. Do we have any. Understanding of how this land is your land kind of happened. There's a very famous song. God bless America Will Kate Smith God bless America Right which is taking place in the late thirties thirty thirty eight thirty nine and he takes exception to the song he doesn't believe that it's a true reflection of what he's experienced and traveling across the country right. It's not really depicting the true picture and the average bridge guy at the base of everything he does. He's above the average Guy Yep. If you look at his roots and the hardship he was born out of you can kind of understand this <hes> an and his music does the same thing his music his lyrics depict the same thing and one thing a lot of people may or may not know about Woody Guthrie was that he often would change his lyrics in a performance depending on who he was singing to O.. K. blabber would kind of tailored to the audience yeah or the specific 'cause that he was kind of trying to to support in his music yeah and musicians kind of this as well that later took unsung as you mentioned Bob Dylan Anders People like Bruce Springsteen Pete seeger so many mhm he influenced dylan ton a lot in fact in his final years Dylan used to visit him regularly and in the hospital because gotta start in his early sixties and would he ended up dying in nineteen sixty seventy before the two that from about the age of fifty five until his death he deteriorated so much that he was really not able to do much in the way of performed actually died at the age of died at fifty five. You're saying that the last ten years of his life he was really not in records in the Kizer Asia by the late forties on so if you know that he's born in one thousand nine hundred twelve he's not yet forty yeah when this Hodgkin's Korea begins to infiltrate his body and his mother died of that as well so this anthem this land is your land which is one of the most things song and sing along tunes ever written when was that actually written originally written in nineteen forty nine hundred forty that far back that far back Yep wow now and then it was recorded by the famous ash that vote way records stretch is first name was flakier flick your Ash Moses ash most is Ash Zach okay he records it in nineteen forty four but does not release it. Oh why I don't know what the reasons were but it doesn't actually get released for many years Charlie. He actually releases Folk Bay records releases it nineteen fifty one okay and the actual recorded version of says quote from an article I read in fact Guthrie's recorded version was more or less lost until Smithsonian archivist jeff place heard the acetate master during nineteen ninety seven transfer of the recording to digital format. He's still it. It was sung at rallies around campfires progressive schools. It was these populace lyrics that had appealed to political left in America and I I ever heard was Pete Seeger's version of it not old enough to remember woody in that sense it it is very stirring very much an anthem for the common people and also for America this land is your land from west to East road really sweeping a sweeping song that ticks across the country and then the train travel across the nation to in the importance of trains in the early days of America in particular <hes> without train travel could not have become the industrial nation wasn't balk at East and West Yeah Transcontinental Thel railway than the t sixty and who built that railway hard working Chinese Chinese no and locals but hard working people or any of dying neighbors Labor's who died in the creation and soul woody Guthrie as I understand stand eroded also a ton of train songs. This train is bound for glory and train forty five and different songs all about train travel on the life of the Hobo jumping trains but there's an interesting you just mentioned in Hobo Yep now. This is the perception that we typically have or that. A lot of people have a woody Guthrie that he was a Hobo <hes> no writing the rails as a Hobo. He was actually considered an intellectual interestingly. We don't know that about him. No he was a an avid good reader ball all that aside thing about it too right as much as he wrote he'd have to have some intellectual capacity as well you just to cover the subject matter even if the lyrics were simplified the the content of the meaning behind the lyrics was much more profound right back. I read somewhere that he was debating the federals papers in the Library of Congress. <hes> the famous federal has papers are associated with Lincoln and so on so he it wasn't just some poor guy meaty potatoes writing the rails and planning guitar well. That's the thing about these so-called folk singers we often paint them as being very simple minded in folks in one way shape or form and they're much more complicated and more intelligent than we give them credit for a lot of time and also more tuned in yeah sure to the realities of their experience because they are experiencing. These things themselves also not just what they're witnessing. They're actually living it. This is a guy that comes from the center of the United States right and as the Sun reflects in the lyrics from California to New York and everything in between right he's also brought into this is great piece on the Columbia River which was a documentary that was being made at the time and their song was made for that roll-on Columbia rose on. That's the Tin Wright tune so I mean there's a lot of these tunes we remember from woody without actually thinking about them that often but he really was influential in as you say starting the folk movement and as a songwriter writing about the day to day what you see out there Roy not some imaginary world of romance and love and Blahdy Blahdy but the actual day to day struggles so remember that all of this activity all this travel quite a restless soul. He doesn't stand any place Bernie given length of time he has this psychological vehicle mindset that he doesn't want to get to comfortable anywhere right because his early life meant a constant move and never knowing what was going to happen next so he was most comfortable on the road which is not typically would most people are comfortable with great and this eventually costume three marriages <hes> okay and a children he had by three different women eight children so his son are low was the second one second wife who by the way was the only one who attended him his final days. They'll kidding yeah. Wow third wife couldn't handle everything that was happening at the end but his second wife actually came back with the children they had together as well take Arlo was one of them box the guy from the red would to string this Illinois Central. <music> fifteen cars and fifteen restless rider three conductors in twenty four six days all along southbound on the train down enroll law passed town bar than passing towns that have no name and freight yard full of old black men and degree yards arrested all be singing good morning America are no you know me and you need is just the train they call the New Orleans five hundred miles when days box Fox are low kind of became a chip off the old block walk in many ways kind of taking that torch and carrying it forward as a fine singer-songwriter folk musician <hes> in his own way making his way in the recording industry etcetera etcetera and speaking of Hobos us in one thousand nine hundred ninety two he produced record called Hobos Lullaby and on that album was a song called city of New Orleans which became his biggest hit it rose to number eighteen on the charts also kind of anthem for trains in many people don't realize that he didn't write that song. They don't know the person who wrote that song was Steve Goodman a gray musician and his own fantastic musician. If you dial up Youtube in Steve Goodman you'll see just how incredible guitarist he was as well as a tremendous songwriter and he grew up in Chicago and he'd take the train regularly from Chicago down to the south of the U._S. and other parts on the Central Central Illinois line <hes> she was an Amtrak train. No one of the trips is wife was asleep and he started to gays out the window and unabated sketch patty sir to write notes about what he was seeing the passing fields a- junk yard with rusting automobiles freight yards full of black men passing no name towns and all that stuff and playing cards with the old men in the club card all of these things that ended up in this song city of New Orleans. It's really an observational song and it's fantastic song. It's kind of simple in its cord structure. Not that complicated. The words are very clear. It's taking on a journey on this train in South America to the Mississippi area from Illinois and all the things along the way and then towards the end it says in all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream in the steel rails still eat turned the news meaning that trains are beginning to go the way of the Dodo because airplanes have now come in and they're closing down a lot of railways lot a rail lines and the highway structures which is a fifties and sixties yeah which is very difficult for a lot of people in rural areas who relied on the train system in the efficiency of that and so Steve Goodman wrote this song city of New Orleans in part to support the movement to save the trains if you like MHM and he unleashed it in nineteen seventy at the philly folk festival and then recorded it on his first album in nineteen seventy one and then how did Arlo Guthrie get a hold of this song. This is the interesting story because we have a segment on youtube that we can play our talks about this. I met Steve Goodman background. Nineteen seventy-one now is playing in club at the time Belmont called quiet night and one night after the show. Oh I was walking out with my guitars. You know going home or to the hotel or something and the owner of the place guy named Richard Harding Stat me sit arlo before you go friend of mine was singing a song so I said Oh oh come on yeah. I don't want to hear no songs. I don't like songs. I was tired as I only like my songs wash. I listen to other people songs so around. The corner comes as little guy and he's smiling at me says Arlo. I just WANNA sing you. Once on man says okay tell you what man you buy me a beer and I'll sit here and drink it and as long as it lasts you can do whatever you want so he says it sounds like a good deal at I says it does it turned turned out to be one of the Finer Beers of my life I met Steve Goodman that night and we set out and you played a bunch of songs and gave me a tape for some of his stuff and some lead cheats and I took them home and and <hes> within bat six months or so we had recorded city of New Orleans and went on from there and so he records it and produces it on his hobos lullaby album in nineteen seventy two and makes it big big name Steve Goodman the writer wrote that song when he had been diagnosed with leukemia so fron young to Yup from nineteen sixty seven or eight until nineteen eighty-four when Goodman died at the age of thirty six he had to deal with chemotherapy and drugs and all kinds of shit and keep his energy positive in his creativity going to write these songs and he ends up writing this saw which is a kind of celebration that is a kind of an anthem as well just WanNa go back a little bit to Woody Guthrie because one of the interesting things but woody Guthrie as most people who knew who watched him perform what they were impressed by was not on his musical ability because many would say he's not the greatest guitar player not even the greatest singer fairly right a metric guitar but he could tell stories and then oftentimes when he would sing he would stop and he would tell stories while he singing singing Yup while he was singing and this is really what captured people this is really woody. Guthrie is still known for yeah a like father like son Arlo Guthrie became famous for recording called Alice's restaurant restaurant analysis restaurant massacre in this this rambling. I think it's like fifteen or twenty minutes song story which is very very funny. It just brilliant is humor against storytelling right <hes> by mean folk music was all about storytelling anyway all man take a look at my life. I'm loyal young you yeah story about that. Relationship Father and son Cat Stevens relationships living life and so unfortunately Steve Goodman passes away but before he passes Willie Nelson finds his tune and he wants to record that to new Willie Nelson records the tune in names the album city of New Orleans events in Onerous Nick Goodman who I think he knew was dying. I mean makes really famous comes number one and the country charts for longtime so he brings it back in a way ten years later at least Johnny cash records towards it. John Denver Records in Sammy Smith records it all kinds of people dylan played it as well and then in one thousand nine hundred eighty five. I think it is Willie. Nelson Wins Grammy Award for that Song and posthumously Steve Goodman is awarded a grammy as the songwriter so he didn't live to see that final accolade and for sure that some if not all people that are listening to this podcast will probably be surprised to even hear his name because I have to be honest with your until we talked about this yeah I really was not familiar with Steve Gooden. Yeah I mean I was generally familiar but not much more than that didn't know that he wrote city of New Orleans. I mean his tunes are not recognizable a few listed and they're not. organizable frankly and he never achieved fame that Guthrie and other for goddess received in those days which is a bit of a shame although he was considered a musicians musician his fellow musicians really recognized how great he was a guitar player as a singer Songwriter and is a fantastic concert with <hes> arlo Guthrie Steve Goodman and white acton together on the stage in nineteen seventy four. You're on Youtube look at our solar. What an incredibly fabulous concerts? The music is so good so strong. musicianship is really there in humor storyteller. You can stop by watching the video just having a good time together together having a great time telling stories in loving the music that they produced an and the whole art of telling stories through songs is really somewhat of a dying art. We don't see that much anymore. <hes> from pop bands and other musicians nations are telling stories so much which is a shame well. Let's also the advent of technology which is also changed not only the music content but the technical aspects of the instruments who are talking about guys with basic acoustic guitars sure yup minimalist in terms of the improvements that they were utilizing in their songs that's right but then the development of technology and remastering old inconsistent tapes stuff where where you can now here Robert Johnson almost crystal clear right <hes> Woody Guthrie you still hit here the hiss and stuff but that's part of the charm right so there's a lot of wonderful things about this kind of music and that's I think that's why we we wanted to highlight it is that it's kind of a dying breed like trains this idea of storytelling an observational lyrics connecting the real people yeah as a kind of a dying breed when we're living in the age of of the Internet Internet and digital and you know holograms and pseudo everything virtual everything these on the ground kinds of stories of trains where you could feel the rumble beneath your feet Hugh Nationally feel grounded. You don't feel on an airplane particularly remember noises yeah the noise tracks clogging clouds wonderful you know as a baby could fall asleep to those noises and Cetera incidentally this tune Steve Goodman's version of it was attuned that they used to wake up the Apollo astronauts astronauts on some of their missions missions that tune was your good morning. America was used to wake them up <hes> also good morning. America was a television show named after that song and then they're surmising that the phrase good morning America came from a poem and book by the same name by Carl Sandberg Painless American poet Arlo also talks about the studio studio sessions and we should play some of that because that's interesting to what they tried to do with it. We tried to do all kinds of things to it in studio we <hes> we tried it up beat. We tried it this way. We tried it slow. We try to sideways. We tried bluegrass. We tried it. You know we actually recorded it from scratch seven times I mean I don't mean just trying to fix an old way actually just worked at work through it out worked at work through it out on the seventh seventh time we ended up with just as very simple plaintiff lopiano guitar little squeeze box and we had some wonderful singers the blackberries and group of guys that really saying between the a simple tin and the the instrumentation and the vocals just became anthem you know in and of itself during those sessions he was backed up by cloudy King and Veneta fields to fantabulous backup singers which Steve Goodman didn't have he was just solo and a lot of the remix are solo but Arlo brought that fuller sound in with those backup singers road were there only songs that are low and is dead together. I searched for I searched for. I couldn't find a one so I doubt it very much. Nothing recorded as far as I can tell. They probably may be played at home. When there was a kid <hes> child amy no not really in our lows time when this came out seventy one seventy two who is the president at the time excellent tricky dicky the Watergate affair close to the end of Vietnam Vietnam still happening to protest songs Woody Guthrie is the ultimate protests folk musician in those days and that pave the way for all kinds of other musicians as oh father and son were essentially doing the same things in two different eras? Yeah I think Arlos a bit of a softer approach but definitely there a cut from the same cloth <hes> while softer approach kind of matches the conditions the times to he lived in a depressed era. That's right Arlo did not that's right. He was on a revolutionary era. Yeah we just come out of the sixties early seventies right but the base of both their music <hes> is to to people's awareness up right by the way. Do we know whether Woody Guthrie enlisted in was actually a merchant marine. Oh he was in fact when he came back. That's when his second marriage happened and he settled settled in New Jersey for awhile and that's our our Lewis Board okay so that's how that worked <hes> all right and important point about Guthrie's music as I've mentioned earlier that he often would change some of his lyrics Alex yes depending on where he was singing who he was addressing and so on and his son Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger both made a point of singing the more radical versions of his songs. Oh aww day for example this land is your land yeah also reviving another verse from Guthrie that he wrote but never officially recorded. Oh do you have that burst I do and the verse was scribble on a sheet of a loosely paper now in the possession of his daughter Nora got through and it said one bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple by the relief office I saw my people as they stood hungry. I stood there wondering if God bless America for me powerful powerful Eric's a Nora has no idea why that verse was never used in the recording so this cast is your cast. This cast is my I cast and we are actually in the town of Orangeville not the city of New Orleans <hes> but we are rambling on on our own journey here on this podcast and then we'd love to hear from you and you know we're getting people from a lot of different places that are now listening to this podcast. Yes Anders one place in our own country that <hes> repeatedly comes up. Yes what's that place call and it's called Bullhorn Wa Bohara Noi Quebec Quebec so beautiful sounding name. WHO's out there in Bullhorn Wa and are you listening if you are we'd love to hear from you absolutely in surly we send note say if you wish <hes> we'd be happy to hear from you anyone else listening? 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