New York Daily News: WNET's Tribute To Woody Guthrie Captures The Flexibility Of His Music

WNET's tribute to Woody Guthrie captures the flexibility of his music
John Mellencamp, Rosanne Cash, Tom Morello, Del McCoury and others honor music legend at 'Woody Guthrie at 100: Live at the Kennedy Center'


John Mellencamp and other music greats will pay tribute to folk legend Woody Guthrie.

Title: Woody Guthrie at 100: Live at the Kennedy Center
Network / Air Date: WNET Ch. 13/Friday at 9 p.m.
What may be most impressive about this lovely centennial tribute to Woody Guthrie is how well it captures the flexibility of his music.

It can be sung a capella by Sweet Honey in the Rock (“I’ve Got To Know”), spun into bluegrass by Del McCoury and Tim O’Brien (“So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh”) or rocked up into a brilliantly raucous country tune by John Mellencamp with “Do-Re-Mi.”

Mellencamp’s original rendition of that song on the wonderful 1988 Guthrie/Leadbelly tribute record “A Vision Shared,” paved the way for Bruce Springsteen’s “Seeger Sessions,” which reflected Bruce’s own love for Guthrie’s musical world.

John Mellencamp, seen here in 2009, rocks out Guthrie's “Do-Re-Mi” "Woody Guthrie at 100: Live at the Kennedy Center."

Bruce isn’t on this special, but the music is plenty to carry the day, and as always with Guthrie’s songs, the message lingers long after the last note.

If “Pretty Boy Floyd” romanticizes a thug — and Rosanne Cash sings it knowingly here — Ani DiFranco’s “Deportee” captures all the inhumanity we often show toward those we see as newer and lesser.

Donovan’s “Riding In My Car” is about nothing more than the restlessness of kids on a road trip. Then in almost the same breath Guthrie could write the witty, seldom-heard “Ease My Revolutionary Mind,” sung here by Tom Morello.

The show also features short interspersed bits of Guthrie’s prose, including a famous bit read by Jeff Daniels on how Guthrie hated songs that made people feel bad.

His goal, he said, was to make everyone proud of what and who they are, and what they do.
This special shows how much reason Guthrie had to feel that way himself.