Saturday, March 08, 2014

Billy Bragg & Wilco, "She Came Along to Me," lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

Today is International Women's Day, and I'm marking it by posting a video of a song done by a bunch of guys. The lyrics were written by a man, Woody Guthrie, in 1945, and were set to music by English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg along with Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett of the Chicago based rock band Wilco. This was done as part of a project called Mermaid Avenue, organized by Guthrie's daughter, Nora.

In an interview for the web site DVD Talk, Nora Guthrie described how work on her father's archives had led to finding a trove of lyrics that had not, to anyone's knowledge, ever been set to music.

[T]here were just so many lyrics that I had never heard of and my family hadn't heard of. And don't ask me why they were never recorded, because I can only suppose why. I wasn't there so I don't know the real answer to that one. But anyway, I just started finding these great lyrics and they sounded, I mean just as a piece of written word poetry, I just loved them. And I started tacking them up on my tack board here. I thought "Hmm, someday I want to do something with this stuff." And then cut to the chase, I found Billy Bragg and asked him if he wanted to work on it. He kindly said, "Yes."
The project was called "Mermaid Avenue" because the lyrics were written when Woody Guthrie and his wife lived on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, actually a peninsula projecting from, and part of, Brooklyn. (My immediately previous post is about Coney Island Brewing Company's "Mermaid Pilsner.") It resulted in three albums; "She Came Along to Me" is on the first, the cover (with photo of the house where the Guthries lived) of which is shown on the video above.