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New Woody Guthrie Song 'Born to Win' to Benefit Progressive Candidates


The song has never been recorded before.

New Woody Guthrie Song 'Born to Win' to Benefit Progressive Candidates

On a chilly September 2020 evening in a backyard in West Shokan, NY six musicians took the stage, a low plywood platform in the grass, and cut into an exuberant rock-tinged folk song that lifted the attending quarantine-weary locals from their folding chairs in grateful and gleeful whoops.

Wielding organ, fiddle, guitar, bass, and double drums, these were members of two Hudson Valley bands The Restless Age and The Mammals, who have been collaborating and steadily producing music throughout this unusual year.

The song was Woody Guthrie's heretofore unrecorded "Born To Win" which the bands will release in three unique versions on October 1st, to benefit progressive candidates in the lead up to the November 2020 election.

The Restless Age is a power trio becoming known for their romantic, harmony-driven, rock songs. Veteran folk-Americana band, The Mammals, is fronted by Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda "with songwriting firmly rooted in the hand-me-down folk music of politics, community and rural splendor" according to American Songwriter. Their May 2020 release, Nonet, artfully navigates social justice and sustainability themes and features a stunning nine-piece ensemble that includes all three members of The Restless Age. No Depression praised the release, saying "Nonet marshals the defiant spirit needed to heal a damaged world."

"Born to Win" is a magnetic combination of Guthrie's lyrics penned as a merchant marine en route to France during WWII and music composed by Merenda who uncovered the words in Guthrie's book "Born to Win," a collection of journals, stories and recollections published in 1965, shortly before the iconic folksinger's' death.

"The maddest I've been in my whole life was when I rode on a troopship with more than three thousand men headed for France and we got about half way out on the ocean and a big storm come up. The ship rocked and rolled and made a lot of us sick. We hadn't been across before. We turned on our radio and a song blubbered out over the loudspeaker, 'Born to Lose!' Ain't that some hell of a damned song for the United States Army to have poked down its throat on its way into a battle? I couldn't rest easy till I run and grabbed my pencil and wrote this one down. 'Born to Win.'" - Woody Guthrie

"I couldn't believe no one had taken a stab at this one before" said Merenda who along with his wife and bandmate Ruth Ungar had previously worked with the Woody Guthrie Archives for their 2012 Mike + Ruthy recording of Guthrie's "My New York City" for the box set "My Name is New York: Ramblin' Round Woody Guthrie's Town."

The Mammals' purposefully retro recording was cut direct to vinyl in Jack White's record booth at Third Man records in Nashville, TN during a tour stop in 2017 and features a guest harmony vocal by Woody's granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie.

The Restless Age recording is produced with a more contemporary sound in their sonically grand church-turned-studio The Building in Marlboro, NY.

Both versions will be released via bandcamp on October 1st. Proceeds generated will be donated to progressive candidates that the bands admire for defending the rights of immigrant and Indigenous communities, work toward sustainability, and support of culture and the arts. As Woody Guthrie once so eloquently said, "Left wing, right wing, chicken wing - it's the same thing to me. I sing my songs wherever I can sing 'em. I ain't a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life."

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From This Author Sarah Jae Leiber