Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter Wonderland: Phoebe Snow

Utah Phillips: Intro to Phoebe Snow

Utah Phillips: Phoebe Snow


I kind of cheated in posting this for this week’s theme; not a single flake of snow appears in this song, and it even seems likely that the action occurs in summer. But, before you totally panic, I did not use a song by an artist with snow in her name, and the word does appear in the song title. In fact both the song and the singer took their name from the same source; Phoebe Snow was a character created for an ad campaign by the Delaware Lackawanna Railroad in the early 1900s. Ads such as the one shown above were still found on railcars well into the second half of the twentieth century, and were known to both the singer Phoebe Snow, who took her stage name from them, and to Utah Phillips.

Back in Heaven week, I managed the trick of posting songs about hobos without mentioning Utah Phillips even once. Phillips had been a hobo and a union organizer at different times in his early life, and these influences informed his songwriting once he became a musician. Phillips championed the downtrodden and the workers in his work, and his political views informed many of his songs. His hobo songs, such as this one, tend to be less overtly political than the rest of his material.

Many people had their introduction to the work of Utah Phillips when Ani DiFranco released an album of remixes of his songs on her Righteous Babe label; the album was made with Phillips’ full consent and cooperation. But what you hear here is a better representation of his work. Phillips died earlier this year, and I offer this post as a small tribute to him.

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