‘Where do I go?’
May 10, 2012 —
Good question. While actively in the throes of an existential crisis, I continue to wade through life, searching for an answer that might never reveal itself. Less than thrilled with the results of an Internet search, I pressed on and discovered a disquieting website (www.existentialcrises.com) that simply presented a black page with the words “you are alone.” Lovely. Undaunted, I persevered and wallowed briefly in the not-so-uplifting lyrics penned by James Rado and Gerome Ragni for the “great American tribal love rock musical”—“Hair.”
As the song (music by Galt MacDermot) poses the questions:“Where is the something? Where is the someone, that tells me why I live and die?,” the answers continued to elude me, so I picked up the phone and called Country Joe McDonald (www.countryjoe.com) while he was en route to the event gallery at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org), to ask him. While the show that Country Joe is currently touring (A tribute to Woody Guthrie) is about (among other things) the Great Depression, he assured me that it has nothing to do with the sort of depression I am currently experiencing, so I (gratefully) became momentarily sidetracked by our conversation.
My list of questions for Country Joe proved helpful, and our chat covered a wide range, including his years with The Fish, their appearance at Woodstock, the antiwar movement of the ‘60s and the current political climate. All that aside, this tour is all about Guthrie, this being the 100th anniversary of his birth, and how his songs, lyrics and stories still reverberate, shedding wisdom, humor and pathos along the way.
“My dad was a lot like Woody,” Country Joe said, “and Guthrie’s music was a part of our household growing up. This show is called a tribute because he was one of my heroes in the same way Will Rogers was—both men were considered ‘unmanageable’ personalities, and neither one ever achieved a lot of commercial success—so I can relate.” With the song from “Hair” still playing in my head, I considered the lyric that suggested I “follow the children,” wondering aloud if there is “an answer in their sweet faces,” and asked Country Joe if he thought apathy reigned supreme with today’s youth.