Woody Guthrie was an icon around my house during my childhood. There were lots of scratched old Folkways records, Guthrie's books, and copies of the venerable folkie publication Sing Out! It took me a little while to acquire a taste for Guthrie's music, but once I did, I was pretty hooked by one of the most fascinating characters of the Twentieth-Century. His daughter Nora has been ably stewarding Guthrie's legacy with such efforts as Billy Bragg and Wilco's terrific Mermaid Avenue sessions, and continued re-releases of old and uncovered material from the prolific musician's archives. Rolling Stone has posted one of these hitherto unreleased tracks "My Name is New York" on their blog. Although clearly a rough working demo (and indeed most of Guthrie's recordings sound a bit like rough demos!), it's a wonderful, poetic evocation of New York:
I read mountains of books/Every day but I’m frisky;
I wash down my brain cells/With hundred proof whiskey.
I work and I slave/And I bless and abuse;
I waste twice as much/As I ever could use.
I’m the town called New York/With my all color paint;
And I curse and I run/And I hide and I faint.
I’m the town called New York, I’m a brick on a brick;
I’m a hundred folks running/And ten dying sick;
I’m a saint, a bum, a whore and her pimp;
And your ocean’s the mirror I look in to primp.