Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prolific



And now for something completely different...

Heard the piece on NPR this morning with Jonatha Brooke, the recording artist given access to the Woody Guthrie archive. Working with bits and pieces, scraps, and fragments, she produced a new CD of mostly unknown and previously unrecorded material. It's called The Works, and it's hauntingly beautiful. You might know that Woody wrote on everything.. constantly... matchbooks and napkins, envelopes and paper towels, like the one shown here. It's gratifying to see these little splinters come out of hiding and reform themselves into powerful art. I suspect this will continue to happen long into the future.
Woody once wrote, "I'm gonna mail myself to you." He wasn't kidding.
Of course there is the danger of romanticizing Woody and all that he left behind. Many that knew him well will tell you the other side of the man. The one that was capable of hurting people, the slightly amoral, busted, disgusted, can't be trusted, little piece of hide that would come for a weekend and stayed 6 months, never met a woman he didn't like or wouldn't like to love, and could play all night for drinks and tips and give all his money to the first bindle stiff he met on the street.
Woody's impulsive side was not without its own logic. People never knew where his Huntington's Disease began and his personality left off. He needed to write his autobiography at age 29 because he's lived and traveled so hard, and he knew, on some level, that his time might be running short.
Here's the lyric to one of the new Guthrie songs that's undergone a musical birth. I've included some of Jonatha Brooke's comments about her discovery




My Battle
JONATHA'S NOTE:

I found this lyric and my heart just leapt. You can see in the liner notes how labored the handwriting was. I think Woody was already in the hospital when he wrote it. But there was something so elemental, and at the same time universal, that I had to go deeper. Then in the archives one day, I was paging through one of his notebooks from years earlier, and there it was: "I never dread the day I will die, "cause my sunset is somebody's morning sky." Nora told me Woody would have loved it that someone was digging and merging and making new songs from his different writings. I was just thrilled that the jigsaw puzzle fell into place and this beautiful spiritual song really came to life.
LYRICS:
Show me how, how to fight my battle in life
Show me how to fight
And I'll run away with you

Teach me how, how to fight my hard times in life
Teach me how to fight and
I'll run away with you

And I will never dread the day I will die
"Cause my sunset is somebody's morning sky

Show me how, how to face my troublesome fights
Show me how to face them
And I'll run away with you

Teach me how, how to win my union in life
Show me how to win
And I'll run away with you

And I will never dread the day I will die
"Cause my sunset is somebody's morning sky

Show me how, how to win for all of my people
Show me how to win
And I'll run away with you

Teach me how, how to love this battle of life
teach me how to love
And I'll run away with you

How to fight, how to win, how to love
Teach me how, show me how, teach me how
How to love
How to fight, how to win, how to love

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