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Obviously, we’re not in the realm of sexiest songs any more (fear not, I have a few in my pocket for future use). However, if you count romance as sexy, then this one goes way up on the list. It’s sexy in its own way, including the lyrics that hint at domesticity (“tell me why I must keep working on”), in typical Woody fashion. Or maybe they hint at his lefty politics. I don’t care either way and then some. To me, Woody was a great poet and his Voice will always contain the pulse of something human and whole. It’s all fine with me.

I grew up listening to one half of Woody Guthrie’s album Songs to Grow On. I still have it, and sort of can’t bear to part with it. It’s an old 10″ record, the vinyl so thick and heavy you could practically chop ice with it; not like the flippy-floppy albums that came later, all bendy and pliable. Of course, it’s full of pocks and skips and scratches. Something my kids will never know about, that sound.

It was an album that apparently drove my mother crazy from overplay. But my dad got a kick out of it and he would sing the songs to me, and laugh.

When my girls were babies, I sang the same songs to them, too. Waking up, middle of the day, driving in the car, taking a bath, bedtime. Woody Guthrie was a real influence in my life. One of my heroes from way back to wee child-dom.

A CD came out of Songs to Grow On, with Arlo Guthrie and a slew of Woody’s clan singing along to the old, taped voice of Woody. But I didn’t really care for it and finally, the original recording of Songs to Grow On came out on disc. It was then that I realized that my 10″ record was only half of what Woody had recorded. I should have known since the cover stated right on the front “Vol. I.”

When my second daughter was born, I, for the second time, got into a severe depression. Mermaid Avenue came out the same year and we were all in love with California Stars, right away. You knew it was a classic, with a pedigree to boot. We can all be grateful that Tweedy (and Jay Bennett, not sure who did what) got a hold of it.

I was going to print the lyrics here, but thought the better of it because the music and the lyrics seem so well married (ah, I have come back to the 20-year anniversary after all).

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