Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jesse Howard was a crank.

Jesse Howard, Untitled (If You Want to See a Gang of Hoodlum Police), 1961
Jesse Howard was a protestor. He held firmly to his right of free speech and to express his thoughts as he saw fit. He placed himself in the American tradition of protest and social commentary and of forming that energy into popular art. Woody Guthrie was also a powerful source of social commentary and political protest. His folk songs are a key component of our national discourse on issues of equality and justice. In 1998 Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora proposed a project to British singer/songwriter Billy Bragg. She had discovered in her father's archives a cache of unheard lyrics, never put to song. She thought Bragg was a kindred spirit who could set the lyrics to music and present them to a contemporary audience. The result was "Mermaid Avenue", an album of songs created by Billy Bragg and the American band Wilco. This song, "Christ for President" combines Jesse Howard's two favorite subjects, God and Country. I think he may have liked it.