Another Man's Done Gone

Album: Mermaid Avenue (1998)
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  • Mermaid Avenue is a collection of Woody Guthrie's lyrics that Billy Bragg and Wilco put to music. Guthrie wrote about many different topics, and this song deals with his religious beliefs. Guthrie's granddaughter Anna Canoni explains: "I would say that Woody's religion was All. He incorporated pieces of everything. All you're really supposed to do here is participate, be active, have a voice, and then leave it behind for next generations to continue. There's this gorgeous song that was recorded by Wilco on the Mermaid Avenue CD titled 'Another Man's Done Gone' where he says, 'I may go down or up or anywhere, but I feel like this scribbling will stay. So when you think of me, if and when you do, just say, well, another man's done gone.'

    And he throughout his life studied many religions. As a songwriter he would study ideas and write what they call a song cycle about one particular topic. He would jump into this pool of Judaism, for example, and swim all around in it, get his fingertips to his toes soaked in the education of it. And then he would come out and write a song series on this idea. So he wrote tons of songs about Hanukkah, but he wasn't technically Jewish, and when we put out an album called Happy Joyous Hanukkah, everyone said, 'I didn't know Woody was Jewish.' And Nora (Anna's mother) said, 'He's not. I guess I need to explain.' So it was just one song cycle. And he looked at religions that way: as an artist, as something to delve into and then swim around in, output all of this. Then, at the end of his life, there's this one lyric that just says, 'Oh God,' over and over and over again. And I don't think that God had a definition. There's a beautiful piece of paper where Woody painted 'God is love.'" (Read more from Anna in her full interview. Learn much more at the official Woody Guthrie website.)
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