Volume I: Tracks 2-4 (New York City, NY)

New York City, NY

2. Woody Guthrie – This Land Is Your Land (1945)
3. Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm (1965)
4. Simon & Garfunkel – America (1968)

First published November 2016

Vol01Ep02 podcast:

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Summaries in a tweet

2. T’bador travels OK-CA, spinnin yarns. In NY Seeger makes star & socialist Guthrie bestows US land to its people

3.Aloof singer protest scene’s unwilling voice. Protests in new way: upsets folk with loud/short dec of independence

4. P Simon & gf look for ‘America’ on road, run out of fags. Smooth vocals makes for commercially successful folk

Why are they worthy?

From a purely personal perspective, Bob Dylan was assured a front and centre place. Ever since my father, having heard me listening to an Eminem record in my early teens, played me Hurricane, assuring yet failing to convince me that I was listening to an early incarnation of ‘rap music’, the great man has always piqued my curiosity, representing a large chunk of my vague notions of what constitutes a true ‘American’ sound. Like most of US100, I started with the song and worked backwards.

Back when this was merely a geography-based playlist of American Songs I Quite Like, Positively 4th Street was the song of choice, on the basis of me finding it one of Dylan’s most sing-alongable tunes and a New York street name being invoked in the title (Positively cannot be found on Spotify so it’s for the best things changed). As the reasoning behind US100 inclusions became increasingly more sophisticated, my story of Dylan instead became tied to that of Greenwich Village, inexorably linked as it is with New York’s musical output in general, with many of its most progressive movements and trailblazing artists emerging from this southwesterly corner of Manhattan Island. As we will learn, Maggie’s Farm, and one performance of it in particular, would come to symbolise just about everything a song could symbolise at the time: a generation rejecting the moral standards and norms of its elders (not yet defined as the ‘counterculture’); the evolution of the musical zeitgeist from folk revivalism to rock n roll; and one man’s own fierce independence and individualism – some may even argue disdain for those who adored him – running at odds with the various labels being thrown at him.

Either side of this, Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and Simon & Garfunkel’s America help us explore how the folk revivalism movement progressed and ultimately splintered through some of the Village’s leading artistic advocates, including the deeply significant influence of one-time Greenwich resident and roommate of Guthrie’s, Pete Seeger. As we celebrate Bob Dylan’s awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature, it should be noted that his place as musical royalty, his prior emergence on the circuit, and the controversial evolution of his style would never have come to be without his idolisation of Guthrie or the belief shown in him by Seeger. The story of Guthrie, the archetypal traditional travelling tall-tale-telling troubadour, is about as ‘heart of America’ as can be, while This Land Is Your Land, with its evocative lyrical descriptions of the US landscape and its permanent place in the nation’s consciousness, is perhaps, out of the whole US100, the track most firmly embedded into the country’s heart. Simon & Garfunkel meanwhile represent the legacy these pioneers left behind, and America’s titular reference to the country itself and its descriptions of roaming through its lands is the song from the New York duo that best embodies the This Land Is Your Land spirit from which they indirectly emerged. Also, while compiling ‘100 songs at the heart of America’, it’s tough to overlook the one called ‘America’.

Aside from music, this story is worthy of its place beyond musical justification: Seeger, the folk movement, and its legacy run far deeper, delving into the civil rights movement, unionisation, protests against Vietnam, and ultimately the very moral fabric of the US.

What's the story?

Woody Guthrie with trademark 'this guitar kills fascists' guitar in 1945
Woody Guthrie with trademark ‘this guitar kills fascists’ guitar in 1945

The alleged son of KKK members and lynching participants, Guthrie, as a 19 year old unemployed sign painter seeking a better life, accompanied bands of fellow travelling working class ‘Okies’ in the early 1930s, hitching the rails from Oklahoma to California as they looked for work out west. Along the way Guthrie found a talent for marrying his raw experiences with spinning musical yarns. A decade later, Guthrie moved east to New York and was embraced by the urban folk community there, enamoured as they were by his genuine rural roots and travelling history. Particularly interested was a young singer by the name of Pete Seeger who went on to live and play with Guthrie as part of the topical social justice flavoured Almanac Singers. It was here in NYC that Guthrie penned This Land Is Your Land – a response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, annoyed as he was by its wishy-washy whitewashing of the reality of US life. It is a socialist’s affirmation of everyone’s collective ownership of every acre of the United States – from California to the New York island – and in the true ‘borrow and lend alike’ spirit of the song, and in keeping with Guthrie’s Oklahoma vernacular for which he was famed, the typescript submitted for its copyright simply reads: ‘anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern’.

And it was Guthrie that convinced a 20 year old Bob Dylan that it was his destiny to make his own rambling way across the country in 1961, dropping out of college in Minneapolis as he learnt his idol was lying ill with Huntington’s disease, and hitchhiking his way eastward with $10 in his pocket. Dylan would play at Guthrie’s bedside, before scrabbling around in New York City’s Greenwich Village and making huge waves there – no doubt crossing paths with members of the not yet formed The Mamas & the Papas as he did so – where he would channel the spirit of Woody into gloriously fantastical tall tales about his own life and travels that captivated his audiences, whether he was claiming to be a Sioux Indian from New Mexico or a student of musical cowboys in Wyoming. Seeger, unsurprisingly, was a fan of this Guthriesque approach, and played an important role in securing Dylan’s first contract with Columbia Records – Maggie’s Farm was recorded in one clean take in January 1965, just under a year ahead of California Dreamin’. Four years later, legend would have it that Seeger was aggressively yielding an axe in order to stop Dylan playing Maggie’s Farm altogether. How he and the wider crowd actually responded to Dylan’s first showcase of a ‘new’* electric rock direction at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival is shrouded in the confusion of hundreds of conflicting claims.

newport
Dylan on stage at Newport, 25/7/1965

Dylan goes electric: betrayal or evolution?

Newport was a manifestation of Seeger’s folk revivalist movement and its responsible and sustainable ethos, taking place in Rhode Island some 180 miles up coast from New York City. Undeniably the most highly anticipated set of its sixth incarnation was controversial and polarising, but perhaps not necessarily for the reasons often cited. Dylan up to this point had somewhat accidentally established himself as the voice of Seeger’s protest generation, crusaders for nuclear disarmament, civil rights, and withdrawal from Vietnam (despite the fact he resolutely rejected the terms ‘protest song’ or ‘topical songwriter’), and his Newport performance came with no shortage of expectation that he would continue to carry the good fight forward. But while many refer to folk movement betrayal, anathema among purists towards electrical amplification, or leftist infighting between hedonists and socialists, I prefer to consider the possibility that the simplest explanation is the most accurate: Dylan’s much hyped appearance simply wasn’t very good. The haphazard nature of the performance is a matter of record, and one can’t underemphasise the fact that the set started late and only lasted for three songs, which seems just as valid a reason to boo someone off stage as an electric guitar. Seeger meanwhile argues that he loved Maggie’s Farm but was angered that the lyrics were obscured by the distorted sound levels the band had decided upon – even if tales of him literally brandishing an axe to cut the wires are fanciful. The dysfunctional way in which Dylan and members of the (otherwise excellent) Paul Butterfield Blues Band desperately put together the performance the prior night is well documented, and ultimately playing electric badly may have been the problem, rather than playing electric per se; you can make up your own mind through watching the video on the ‘Further learning’ tab.

Simon and Garfunkel perform live at Ohio University, 29/10/1968
Simon and Garfunkel perform live at Ohio University, 29/10/1968

There is no shortage of artists who were able to reap the benefits of Dylan’s folk rock innovation following his Newport lead. Well, perhaps not those who literally followed him onto stage, considering the scene was described as the ‘aftermath of a battle’, with audience members variously angry with Dylan and his band, the festival organisers, and each other – so spare a thought for the poor old Moving Star Hall Singers who were next on the bill, the musical equivalent of following on from the Tasmanian Devil such was the destruction and confusion all around. But to quote music historian Elijah Wald, the likes of Simon & Garfunkel subsequently went on to ‘reap the benefits of folk rock as sowed by Dylan’, their smoother vocals laid over Dylan’s genre to produce a more commercially successful package. America, written for the critically revered 1968 album, Bookends, is Paul Simon’s tale of a five day road trip taken with girlfriend Kathy, working their way from Michigan to New Jersey.

* – While undoubtedly a shock for the Newport crowd compared to his soft acoustic 1963 and 1964 sets, Dylan playing electric didn’t exactly come right out of the blue: the album from which Maggie’s Farm came, Bring It All Back Home, had been released four months prior, and Like A Rolling Stone had been released five days earlier, allegedly inspired by the way in which the Byrds had already ‘electrified’ Dylan through their cover of Mr Tambourine Man.

Note: This article was amended on 16/3/17 to remove reference to Bob Dylan being a headliner at Newport in 1965

How do they sound?

Like You Are My Sunshine (written three years prior) in the case of track 2 – you can practically overlay one chorus onto the other. But more than anything, understated humbleness is the overriding feeling once gets from this number: in its origins, its lyrics, its music, and in its intention, while its descriptions of endless skyways, golden valleys, diamond deserts, and dust clouds rolling are nothing if not evocative. 

Meanwhile there is a great irony in the lyrics of Maggie’s Farm being lost in the chaos of Newport, as they captured the moment better than any postmortem could – it is a lonely angered countrified declaration of independence, a refusal to be kotowed by the expectations placed upon Dylan by the surrounding establishment of hypocrites, crooks, and liars: I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you, to be just like them. Dylan himself undoubtedly revelled in the irony of continuing the protest song tradition in the least traditional way possible.

America, perhaps exemplifying the way in which folk music progressed over this two decade period, is a song of heightened production values, rolling crashing percussion crescendos, atmospheric backing vocals, and emotive harmonies. Meanwhile the lyrical description of the journey which Paul and Kathy embark on  – Saginow, Michigan to New Jersey – make for an apt nod towards the This Land Is Your Land spirit from which they indirectly emerged: Midwest to East Coast is the path Dylan chose to tread, and both pilgrimages serve as something of a mirror to Guthrie’s Oklahoma to California westbound adventures, as shown below.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-14-48-42

Where are they now?

Sloop_Woody_Guthrie

Woody Guthrie’s legacy is far reaching, beyond his influence on the Dylans and Seegers of this world. His death led to his wife Marjorie forming the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is held annually in his home town of Okemah, Oklahoma, and the Woody Guthrie Center, a public museum and archive of his life and work, opened in nearby Tulsa in 2003. There’s even a boat named after him – Pete Seeger launched the Sloop Woody Guthrie in 1978 (pictured). Of his offspring, son Arlo continues the folk singer-songwriter tradition, while Nora, President of the Woody Guthrie Foundation, does her utmost to preserve and promote her father’s good name. 

With his foremost legacy being the plethora of artists he was able to influence and promote, the impossibly affable Pete Seeger died aged 94 in New York City – but not before a lifetime of devotion to the civil rights cause was rewarded in 2009. At the height of his fame, Seeger was persecuted by the federal authorities for his political beliefs, with his band, The Weavers, falling foul of the McCarthyist Red Scare of the early 1950s, being blacklisted from the airwaves and placed under FBI surveillance; but some 50 years later, a clearly delighted Seeger in his last major TV appearance was joined by his grandson and Bruce Springsteen in front of the Lincoln Memorial, singing This Land Is Your Land at the inauguration of the first ever African-American President, a genuinely heart-warming moment dripping in symbolism. Financial troubles dictated that Seeger’s beloved Newport Folk Festival was forced to close its doors in 1970, but it was revived in 1985 in a more corporatised from – it is now a for-profit event with major sponsorship deals. Headliners in 2016 were Flight of the Conchords, Norah Jones, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

Dylan in concert, 2015
Dylan in concert, July 2015

Despite the fact that he had been electric before ever ‘turning acoustic’ – he played Little Richard and Elvis Presley covers at high school before discovering Guthrie and other folk influences – Bob Dylan famously received a particularly harsh reaction wherever he went immediately after Newport, particularly as it turns out in the UK, as documented in Martin Scorcese’s No Direction Home (see Further learning), in which one over-exuberant Mancunian declares this new pop and rock influenced star to be Judas. It is fair to say that his career has since recovered from this momentary phase of hysteria (Dylan that is, not the Mancunian – his whereabouts is unknown). Revered as one of the most esteemed and influential musicians of all time, Dylan has this year released his 37th studio album – to place into context, if the entire US100 was devoted to Bob Dylan tracks, it would cover less than a quarter of his recorded output. While his pre-Newport Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan era songs remain world renowned classics in the topical song canon, his ‘with band’ work on the likes of Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966), Nashville Skyline (1969), Blood On The Tracks (1975), and Desire (1976) is equally revered, his styles ranging from country fiddler, Bible bothering gospel singer, hotel lobby blues guy, all the way up to voice of Christmas cheer on the bizarre 2009 effort, Christmas In The Heart. As per the previous 27 years, he can currently be found confusing audiences through the butchering of his own numbers on his ‘Never Ending Tour’, having played something close to 3,000 shows since 1988. President Obama, who has described Maggie’s Farm political rhetoric as ‘speaking to him’, bestowed Dylan with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and was one of the first to tweet his congratulations in 2016 as the great man was (slightly controversially) announced as the 2016 Nobel Prize winner for Literature.

543020888Simon & Garfunkel have spent most of their post-Bookends career bickering, falling out, and then kissing and making up again. A key reconciliation happened in 1981 when they performed to more than half a million fellow New Yorkers in Central Park, producing one of the most famous live albums of all time as a result. This summer Art Gartfunkel could be found performing on Glastonbury Festival’s Acoustic Stage (pictured) while it has been reported by the Daily Mail that Kathy Chitty, Paul Simon’s one time English lover and travelling partner in America, is living in a small unnamed village in Wales where she gets the bus to work at a technical college.

Further learning

Trivia:
Bob Geldof’s band, The Boomtown Rats, are named after Woody Guthrie’s boyhood gang, as detailed in his semi-autobiographical semi-fictional Bound for Glory.

Watch:

Make up your own mind: Bob Dylan sings Maggie’s Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Pete Seeger sings This Land Is Your Land with Bruce Springsteen and grandson Tao Rodríguez-Seeger at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.

Bob Dylan receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2012.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
This is included on the basis of it often being cited as one of Dylan’s most striking influences as a youth, with a title alone that can stir up images of the ‘rebel’ facing down the Newport outrage in a pique of individualism. One can recognise elements of Dylan and the counterculture throughout, the youthful angst and lack of respect for the next generation up springing to mind the confused perspective of Mr Jones in Ballad of a Thin Man, while the film itself is worth a watch simply for the fabulous performance of James Dean: he has what I call a wonderful ability to express a total inability to express himself.

Dont Look Back (1967)
Celebrated documenter of the counter-culture, D.A. Pennebaker, makes it two Further Learning recommendations in two chapters, as he follows up his coverage of Monterey Pop with this presentation of Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. This shows perhaps a final glimpse of Dylan before the electric controversy, with the performances at Sheffield, Leeds et al coming just a few months prior to Newport – it was upon his return to the UK a year later that he was to be labelled Judas. Pennebaker’s trademark hands off approach produces fly on the wall perfection, enjoyable largely for Dylan’s short shrift with the abject stupidity of the questions posed by stuffy British journalists, routinely turning the tables on them and placing them under interrogation. And that’s not a typo – he actually dropped the apostrophe in the title.

Bound for Glory (1976)
A sweet if romanticised take on Woody Guthrie’s early years, covering his boxcar jumping across state lines, his painting of signs in exchange for meals, his whipping up of union fervour among downtrodden workers, his romantic dalliances, and ultimately his musical breakthrough. Slow paced, and somewhat undermined or enhanced – depending on one’s view – by a disproportionate number of slapstick men-thrown-over-a-table Western style mass comedy brawl scenes (I think I counted four). Copies are hard to come by in the UK – tweet me if you would like to borrow mine.

The Weavers: Wasn’t That A Time! (1982)
Set in the context of a 1980 reunion of the four members of Pete Seeger’s band for a concert at Carnegie Hall, this is one of the best places for an insight into how Seeger and his folk connections popularised notions of social justice, and the context of the reprehensible persecution from federal authorities that those involved came under, while also making you want each of the four members to be one of your grandparents.

The Concert in Central Park (1982)
The same audio as Simon & Garfunkel’s legendary album (obviously) but with the added bonus of seeing a) the enormously impressive sight of half a million people crammed into Central Park, b) the embarrassed face of the Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, as he is booed onto stage to introduce the duo, and c) the mesmerising sight of Art Gartfunkel’s forehead.

Bob Dylan in a Victoria’s Secret lingerie advert (2004)
Just because you can.

No Direction Home (2005)
Martin Scorcese documents Dylan at his rock n roll zenith as he confronts several forms of hysteria in the post-Newport world, whether from an obsessed yet fundamentally confused media, the screaming delight of those who still hang on his every breath, those former acolytes whose idolism has been submerged into a fog of scorn and contempt, or the dizzying world of celebrity and musical immortality. Upsetter of the establishment, transformer of musical convention, and (alleged) introducer of cannabis to the Beatles, Scorcese does a wonderful job of opening the window into this chapter of Dylan’s life.

I’m Not There (2007)
A wonderfully innovative and engaging biopic, in which our protagonist is represented by six separate Bob Dylan alter egos. While Richard Gere’s representation of Dylan as an outlawed cowboy in a fictional western backdrop that appears to relate to very little of his actual life is easily the most bizarre, Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the amphetamine popping ‘electric’ friend of the Beatles side of Dylan (as documented extensively in the aforementioned No Direction Home) steals the show.

Woody at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (2012)
Daughter Nora and the Woody Guthrie Foundation organised a whole host of exhibitions, events, concerts, compilations, and workshops to celebrate the centenary of Woody’s birth. For sending £7.99 YouTube’s way, you can watch the pinnacle: an old fashioned hootenanny at the Kennedy Center, America’s foremost performing arts venue in Washington, D.C. Alternatively you can listen to the audio on Spotify for free. (See Listen section below)

Read:

Feature piece: The man who wrote the book on Dylan
Without the work of Elijah Wald, the US100 may never have existed: Jarek picked up a copy of his 2015 book – Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties – while travelling the States, its meticulous analysis and explanation of counterculture America one of several inspirations that led to US100 evolving from playlist to project. Thrilled to have secured an interview with someone who has won a Grammy Award for his writings on music, Jarek used 45 minutes on Skype to try and tap into this extensive fountain of knowledge.

‘How Can I Keep From Singing’
Jarek’s excitement about a Pete Seeger exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center is offset as he’s unlikely to make it to Oklahoma, so instead he spoke to Chief Executive, Deana McCloud, about it.

Woody Guthrie – Bound for Glory (1943)
Woody’s autobiography is produced in a classic Woody yarn spinning style – in that it is supposedly unclear where the fact stops and the fiction begins. While this author is yet to sample the book, if one wants to learn more about Woody’s roaming hobo travels, this seems as good a place as any to start.

Bob Dylan’s World (2013) – Slate, May 2013
When you’ve written some 500+ albums, often themed along evocative travelling lines, you rack up a fair few geographical Google Map pins in your lyrics. Mercifully, the good people at Slate magazine did the sensible thing, and plotted onto one map every single place Dylan has ever mentioned in song. Wanna know which 1983 Dylan song mentions Singapore? What links Blonde On Blonde to Lebanon? Click above and find out.

Elijah Wald – Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties (2015)
A balanced analysis of the factors that surrounded Dylan’s 1965 Newport controversy and its legacy – while, like everyone else, Wald is unable to provide definitive clarity on the night itself, it is difficult to imagine a text that so comprehensively explains its symbolism and resonance.

Listen:
Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)
Spotify
YouTube
While Woody was a prolific writer, he was less of a prolific recorder. Those recorded were picked up Bob Dylan however, developing the adulation that would change folk music forever. Dust Bowl Ballads, Guthrie’s first professional recording made during his New York City days, would no doubt have been among Dylan’s collection as his musical pallette evolved back in Minnesota.

Pete Seeger – American Favorite Ballads, Volumes 1-5 (1957-1962)
Spotify
Long before the likes of me were able to put together ‘heart of America’ compilations with the click of a few buttons, the likes of Pete were doing it the old fashioned way – learning and playing the songs himself. A perfect means of acquainting oneself with the numbers that made folk revivalism tick – so long as you can tolerate the banjo – including a fair few Woody Guthrie numbers. Contains a good deal of All American standards – Goodnight Irene; On Top Of Old Smokey, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain – as well as enough geographic-specific songs to colour in a great deal of the map (Banks of the Ohio; Alabama Bound; Arkansas Traveler etc).

Bob Dylan – Song To Woody (1962)
Spotify
YouTube
One of Dylan’s first ever numbers from his debut self-titled album, he tenderly conveys his appreciation for the life and times of Guthrie, as well as a number of his fellow folk musicians.

Bob Dylan – Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie (1963)
Spotify
YouTube
Dylan was asked to sum up what Woody Guthrie means to him in 25 words; the end result was 7 minutes and 1705 words long, and has only ever been recited by its author once during this live performance at New York City’s Town Hall. He concludes by likening faith in Guthrie with faith in God.

Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man (1965)
Spotify
YouTube
If Maggie’s Farm is the lonely battle cry of a man whose patience with the pervasive establishment has run out, then Ballad Of A Thin Man on the subsequent Highway 61 Revisited album represents a sneering dressing down of a single confused establishment figure who has found himself unable to comprehend Dylan’s brave new world. Of the thousands of brilliantly confusing verses he has written, these are arguably Dylan’s most surreal – one alternative interpretation being that it is one town planner’s battle against NIMBYism.
NB: YouTube clip is an extract of a live performance taken from Martin Scorcese’s aforementioned No Direction Home, complete with audience abuse and heckling, and subsequent complaints from Dylan in the car afterwards; a brilliant surrealistic dramatisation of this very performance can also be found in the also aforementioned I’m Not There.

Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie (1968)
Spotify
A collection of Seeger’s live interpretations of the work of his former housemate, bandmate, and perhaps most profound influence.

Bob Dylan and The Band – Before The Flood (1974)
Spotify
A live album that dates to the time when one could identify which songs Dylan was singing, and yet could still be surprised at the new and exciting direction he has taken them in. Includes turning It Ain’t Me Babe into something of a rock n roll hoedown and upgrading Blowin’ In The Wind into a full rich singalong rock ballad.

Simon & Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park (1982)
Spotify
YouTube
If your parents listened to it, this is one of those albums that can invoke in you a feeling of nostalgia for an era before you were born.

Al Kooper – Soul of a Man: Al Kooper Live (1995)
Spotify
YouTube
From the man who provided the hammond organ for Dylan at his infamous Newport set and on subsequent records. This recording is so technically tight not a breath of air is let out, and its fun, dramatic, moving series of solos and riffs makes for one of the the greatest displays of live blues rock and soul you are ever likely to hear.

Woody at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (2012)
Spotify
See ‘Watch’ section above. My personal highlight is Tom Morello’s (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame) take on Ease My Revolutionary Mind, a romantic leftie anthem of needing a ‘progressive woman / I need an awfully liberal woman / Ain’t no reactionary baby / Can ease my revolutionary mind.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – The Studio Album Collection 1965-1971 (2015)
Spotify
From the group who provided most of the rest of Dylan’s backing band, this compilation gives one an understanding as to what turned Dylan onto the Chicagoans in the first place. Inviting you to dance more than most blues bands of the era, the spirit of rebellion that Dylan tapped into is more than apparent throughout.

The Bob Dylan 20 by Jarek Zaba
Spotify
Bringing you the first of our US100 sub-playlists, the Bob Dylan 20 was originally compiled in order to try and convince one of many who have confided in me that they simply did not ‘get’ Bob Dylan. If you are one of the doubters, then this represents your only hope of salvation – if you come away still feeling unmoved, then it’s probably fair to say he’s not your cup of tea. An attempt at providing a cross section of the unremittingly prolific output of the great man, this playlist is known to contain: whimsical love ditties (I Want You; Simple Twist of Fate), psychedelic parties (Changing of the Guards; Rainy Day Women #12 and #35), haunting bluesy folk-country adventures (One More Cup Of Coffee; Blind Willie McTell), bile-infused surrealist polemics (Ballad of a Thin Man; Idiot Wind), gorgeously tender expressions of emotion (Just Like A Woman; If You See Her Say Hello), and passionately told true stories of race and boxing related miscarriages of justice brought to life through a fiddle and some rhyming ranting (Hurricane).

US100 cross references:
Track 1 

Mentioned in reference to:
– Greenwich Village being home of folk revivalism
– The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, members of which accompanied Bob Dylan at Newport, playing at the Monterey Pop Festival

Tracks 5-7
Mentioned in reference to:
– Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings covering This Land Is Your Land
– The work of Bob Dylan inspiring Ronnie Spector’s latest album

Track 12
Mentioned in reference to:
– Art Garfunkel starring in Good To Go, a film set in Washington, D.C.’s gogo scene

US100 interviews

Feature piece: The man who wrote the book on Dylan
Without the work of Elijah Wald, the US100 may never have existed: Jarek picked up a copy of his 2015 book – Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties – while travelling the States, its meticulous analysis and explanation of counterculture America one of several inspirations that led to US100 evolving from playlist to project. Thrilled to have secured an interview with someone who has won a Grammy Award for his writings on music, Jarek used 45 minutes on Skype to try and tap into this extensive fountain of knowledge.

‘How Can I Keep From Singing’
Jarek’s excitement about a Pete Seeger exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center is offset as he’s unlikely to make it to Oklahoma, so instead he spoke to Chief Executive, Deana McCloud, about it.

US100 podcast

US100 podcast Vol01Ep02: Folk Revival

“You’re on the side of the trespassing … that’s an admission of guilt right there isn’t it?”
Chris Kelly on the lyrics of This Land Is Your Land

In our second US100 podcast episode, Jarek and the guys make themselves a little more comfortable in their New York City surroundings, settling into Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the epicentre of the folk revival movement.

Recorded mere hours after the 2016 US Presidential election result was announced, Jarek pertinently explains this period of US musical and political history, in which the old traditional songs of the factories, mines, and plantations were given a mainstream and politicised platform by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger – and we even discover a Guthrie-Trump link along the way. We then explore how folk music was taken into strange new directions by Bob Dylan and later Simon & Garfunkel, at one point dropping into the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to catch the headline act.

Meanwhile Chris entertains us once again with his unique lyrical interpretations, declaring This Land Is Your Land to be an admission of Woody’s criminal guilt, while speculating that Simon & Garfunkel’s America is in fact Paul Simon’s Fear and Loathing (in Michigan) moment. Most importantly, this episode sees the organic birth of the US100’s MAKE AMERICA ENJOYABLE AGAIN motto, since immortalised in red baseball cap form. Finally the guys craft a plan for getting a certificate to Bob Dylan and the other artists.

As always, if you like the music and hate the chat, all songs featured within the episode can be listened to in full through the Spotify B Side.

Play through the embedded player above or on our Podcasts page; download for offline listening; find us on iTunes; or find us on all other major podcast platforms by searching ‘US100’.