Dylan released and unreleased: A Musical Tribute To Woody Guthrie

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: On January 20, 1968, three months after Guthrie’s death, Harold Leventhal produced A Musical Tribute To Woody Guthrie at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, starring, among others, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, and Odetta.

Whilst most performed solo and acoustic, Dylan was accompanied by The Band. They performed 3 songs, all subsequently released on the souvenir album released in 1972.

I ain’t got no home

Tony: Some of these recordings leave me feeling that Bob just turned up with the guys and performed after one quick run through, but this is really thought through – most obviously with the repeat of the title line at the end of the verse.

Maybe the guys just how more time on this occasion, or maybe Bob felt that Woody Guthrie’s memory deserved the best he could deliver.

It is also a great re-interpretation of the song with no sense of irony in the lines about the working man being poor.  It just how it was, and how it is.

Dear Mrs Roosevelt

Tony: I’m not by any means an expert on Woody Guthrie, only knowing his work through my interest in Dylan.  And I must admit that this is not a song I knew until this moment.  I’ve just had a quick look on line to find a recording of Guthrie performing it but I can’t.  Even Spotify doesn’t have any other recordings.

It certainly is a beautifully constructed piece – I am sure the original wouldn’t have had all those key changes, but they work wonderfully.  And of course this being Bob, he did all that work on finding the song and getting the rehearsals perfect, and then never played it again and never recorded it.

Please do write in if you know the story behind the song and its rescue.

The Grand Coulee Dam

Tony: At least this is a song I know!  Although it is a really well-worked original arrangement.   In fact that seems churlish – it is superb.  Here’s the original

Aaron: As the show ended cries of “We Want Dylan” went up. Finally Pete Seeger came out and said, “Woody wants to say to you to take this music to the world, because if you do, maybe we won’t have any more fascists.”

Dylan released and unreleased: the series

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Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is currently published once or twice a day –  sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

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2 Responses to Dylan released and unreleased: A Musical Tribute To Woody Guthrie

  1. Aaron G says:

    Tony…there is an entire 13 part podcast about Dylan’s performance of Dear mrs roosevelt.

    And it’s absolutely fascinating. A wonderful piece of work from the podcaster. absolutely worth a listen if you are interested in this song and Dylan’s performance of the piece

    https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkLnBvZGJlYW4uY29tL2R5bGFuZ3V0aHJpZWFuZHJvb3NldmVsdC9mZWVkLnhtbA?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwjwhrrIlrn2AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAQ&hl=en

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    Guthrie was a man of his time, of the Great Depression, and the fight against Nazism at the time gave him an anti-capitalist pro-Stalin bent in verses that Dylan chooses not to include.
    As well, Guthrie was becoming very ill, and had ceased recording, and soon could not even speak – perhaps who knows – having realized before then that Stalin was no hero of the working man as he was ”romanticized’ by some idealists at the time to be.

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