Woody Guthrie, who would have turned 100 in just a couple weeks, tends to be more often celebrated as a great storyteller than a poetic genius, but he really is both.
Earlier this week, Mike + Ruthy released a video for their take on Guthrie’s “My New York City,” a track off of The NYC EP (AmazonMP3), the duo’s latest project which I wrote about back in March. The lyrics and melody for the song, which was never recorded by Guthrie, was handed off to the band by his daughter Nora.
Ruthy told The Boot, which premiered the video, “As our new melody notes and chords began to take shape, we became even more affected by the beauty of Woody’s words. It sounds like he wrote the words for a loved one, but now, as we sing them, it feels like a song to Woody himself. It’s a huge honor to sing this song.”
The lyrics paint a beautiful and familiar picture of being in love in this city. It’s a song that Mike + Ruthy, who first met in NYC and have now built a family together, claim has a pretty emotional impact on people. It definitely hit me hard. As I heard a very pregnant Ruthy belt out each verse at the band’s concert at Joe’s Pub a couple months back, I was pretty close to tears. What a fitting setting and singer for such a song! And the more I hear it, the more I realize how flexible it is. It can mean so many different things to the listener. For this Brooklynite who has a bucket full of memories with someone on the Q train where this video was filmed, “My New York City” tends to be more of a mournful breakup song, but that’s just where I am right now. For most, it’s something much happier.
Guthrie’s birthday, July 14th, will be celebrated by a ton of exciting book and album releases and concerts. Here in NYC, Steve Earle will perform a set for Guthrie at City Winery and members of the Guthrie family will pay homage to Woody as Guthrie Family Reunion with performances in Central Park and at the Newport Folk Festival.