Brooklyn. Saturday, September 22.
“Walk out on ‘em?”
“Goddammit! I jes’ had ta walk out, Will! Couldn’t take that stuff!”
“Goin’ ta keep pullin’ them one-man walkouts till you’ve ruined all of y’r chances here in New York. Better watch y’r step.”
“Will, you know me. You know dam good an’ well I’d play fer my beans an’ cornbread, an’ drink branch water, ‘er anything else ta play an’ sing fer folks that likes it, folks that knows it, an’ lives what I’m a singin’ ’bout. I’m all screwed up in my head. They try ta tell me if I wanta eat an’ stay alive, I gotta sing their dam old phony junk!”
“You’d just naturally explode up in that high society, wouldn’t you, But, money’s what it takes, Woody.”
- “Crossroads” from “Bound for Glory”
Brooklyn College, September 22. Another Woody at 100 tribute concert, formatted much like the first show in Tulsa last March: a pack of artists of all levels of success and ages, playing a couple of Guthrie’s songs, collaborating. Judy Collins opened on acoustic guitar with her classic take on “Pastures of Plenty,” much like we’d heard it that afternoon.
I’d never heard of Mike + Ruthy from Woodstock, New York, before the show. A darling young couple with a newborn at home, they channel Guthrie’s spririt and Carter Family stylings on “Union Maid,” “Vigilante Man,” and “Dust Bowl Blues” before presenting their reworking of his little-known “My New York City.”
It’s Guthrie’s love song to his adopted hometown, the town that has so often been neglected in the glossy version of his biography. We know Woody in Oklahoma. Woody in California. But this was Woody’s life for many years, the place he chose to be. The place he stayed. His train was a subway, not a westbound freighter.
Among the audience and performers, the love for their adopted son bleeds strong. The audience shared Dave Marsch’s sentiment from earlier in the day with a surprising number of tears. Is this New York City? Brooklyn? Toughest city in the country, brought to tears over a death too soon nearly a half-century ago?
If so, I really do want to stay.