Saturday, November 21, 2020

No Thanks: Dead or Alive


purchase [ Woody's version  ]

<No, thanks> or <no thanks>. There is a difference. Syntax/punctuation matters.

Actually, I think this SMM theme is more about <no Thanksgiving> and other joys denied us in 2020. Yes, the holiday will come and go, but we are being told not to invite the whole family. I'm usually the host, but if I were invited, I would say "No, thanks. Not this year."

"No, thanks" leads me to think of all sorts of issues that have poppped up in 2020: Another 4 years? Classes in a room with 20 X 14 year olds? Sharing my office with a colleague who has had COVID? Riding a service bus to work with 20 others? No, thanks no thanks to our incompetent "leadership".

Then consider the other version: I have recieved no thanks for my actions related to many of the above. At this point I am expected to be thankful for still being alive?

That aside, let's focus on the music that drills down into the theme. Above Woody, then here his son Arlo: <Dead or Alive>. How appropriate!

   the sherrif wants me dead or alive ... no thanks

Arlo sounds a lot better than his old man, but that may be related to recording technologies as much as the way things evolve over time.

I think it's fair to say that Woody Guthrie was re-working a "traditional African-American work song", a tune called <Poor Lazarus>, but the chronology is a bit muddy as far as I could discover.

James Carter is credited as the author of Poor Lazarus, but the Alan Lomax recording from the state pen is dated 1959. lists the first Woody Guthrie performance of <Dead or Alive> recording as dated 1949. 

Poor Lazarus and Dead or Alive are pretty much the same story and I would be inclined to leave the provenance as traditional. The Guthrie legacy is managed by grandchild anna canoni and there is an informative dialog here.

The Alan Lomax/James Carter story includes this information.

Other versions based on the original: 

There's a version by Lonnie Donegan (a Brit I've never heard about, but Wikipedia calls the "King of Skiffle")

Bob Dylan made his reverence for Woody Guthrie clear: his song called <Song to Woody> and his version of <Dead or Alive>:

blog comments powered by Disqus