I read this again slowly along with the Allnonfiction group discussion – I’m sure I didn’t really get it the first time – for some reason. There are three strands which are really only loosely connected although they are related, so it feels a bit choppy. As I reread it (and did a bit of outside sleuthing) I discovered that the major “connection” between Gutrhie and Dylan is in the music itself – not the lyrics – but the tune of 1913 Massacre which Woody Guthrie which wrote in 1941 is similar to Song to Woody by Bob Dylan written in 1960. (Links to Youtube)
Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913
by Daniel Wolff
2017 / 345 pages
read by Dennis Boutsikaris 8h 49m
rating: 8.5 / nonfiction – history/biography
There is no Introduction as such in this book, but I suppose the first chapter is supposed to serve as a “context” or overview of sorts. It introduces Woolf, memoir style, as well as the times of Dylan and Guthrie, who died in 1968, and the Calumet Massacre which occurred in 1913, so in a way it does cover what the book will cover in more depth.
In the last paragraph of Chapter 1 Wolff says,
There’s a line from Dylan to Guthrie to Calumet: a string of interconnected mysteries. Figure out what happened to those kids in Calumet—what’s buried up there—and maybe it helps understand why Guthrie wrote a song about them. Why Dylan used the same melody for his song to Guthrie.
And, fan that he was, Wolff was interested in to digging into the history of Dylan, What he found was old blues tunes and something called “Song to Woody,” which led him to Woody Guthrie.
On the second reading I realized there is really a lot packed into this book going back to old Louis Agassiz of the 18th century whose son, Alexander, ran the C&H mining company in Calumet where the massacre of 1913 occurred.
(at the end of this article there is more info on the tragedy itself)
Guthrie read about the massacre in 1940 in a book by Ella Reeve Bloor, (aka Mother Bloor), an activist at the time – So basically Dylan came across Guthrie’s song and wrote his own “Song to Woody” in about 1960 – the tunes are essentially the same, but the lyrics are completely different.
Woody’s lyrics are about the Calumet Massacre of 1913: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calumet_and_Hecla_Mining_Company
Fwiw – C&H closed all of its copper mines in 1970.
The thing is that those threads, Dylan, Guthrie and the Massacre, didn’t came together quite as I expected. Oh well, I truly enjoyed the history throughout as well as the more recent events described in Chapter 13. Even if I already “knew” quite a lot of it, the thing is seeing those tidbits put together from a different perspective or in a different context and possibly providing a different meaning to them. The history goes from Gilded Age to Golden Age and beyond – lol – the economics of America’s boom times and decline.
The most respect is paid to the union folks and activists, next goes to Guthrie who took up the cause of the union folks and those socially and economically beneath that, and finally to Dylan inspired musically by Guthrie, but who was forging his own way – as usual. (just my opinion)