How Does It Feel? An Alternative American History, Told With Folk Music

On Guthrie, Robeson, Seeger, Lomax, Dylan, the Red Scare, the fall of labor, and what folk music had to do with it.

Daniel Wolff | Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 | Harper| June 2017 | 18 minutes (4,937 words) 

This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

An alien way of life.

You could say the silence started in Calumet in 1913. Word spread that the doors opened inward, that no one was to blame. What followed was a great quiet, a hundred years of agreed-upon untruth.

Or you could say it began just afterward, during the patriotic rush of the First World War and the Palmer Raids that followed. The Wobblies were crushed, the call for a workers’ alternative stilled.

Or you could say it began after the Second World War. If you see the two global conflicts as a single long realignment of power, then after America emerged as a superpower, its century-long Red Scare kicked back in with a vengeance. That’s how Elizabeth Gurley Flynn saw it. She traced the “hysterical and fear laden” atmosphere of the late 1940s back to when she was a union maid visiting Joe Hill in prison. “Now,” she said, “it is part of the American tradition.” In other words, once the nation of immigrants had defined itself, had determined an American Way, it also established the opposite: an Un-American Way.

In 1918, it was the U.S. Senate’s Overman Committee investigating Bolsheviks. In 1930, the Fish Committee looked into William Z. Foster and other communist influences. Eight years later, it was the establishment of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which continued to operate through the fifties. “The real issue,” as HUAC’s first chairman, Martin Dies, put it, was “between Americanism on the one hand and alienism on the other.”

No one did more to define the Un-American than J. Edgar Hoover. His career began in 1917 jailing “disloyal aliens” as part of President Woodrow Wilson’s Justice Department. Soon Hoover was in charge of carrying out the Palmer Raids. By 1924, he was head of the nation’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. When he appeared before the Senate Internal Security Committee in 1948, he testified to “some thirty-five years of infiltration of an alien way of life in what we have been proud to call our constitutional republic.” That math put the beginning of the infiltration—and the silence—in 1913.

Hoover testified as the Popular Front was making one last national effort. Henry Wallace, former vice president under FDR, had mounted a third-party run for the presidency. Seeing little difference between Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey, Wallace vowed to establish “the century of the common man.” That included expanded health care, the nationalization of the energy industry, and cooperation with Russia instead of Cold War. Attacking what he called the Red Scare “witch hunt,” Wallace proclaimed, “those who fear communism lack faith in democracy.”

What was left of the Popular Front rallied around him. Alan Lomax headed up a “musical desk” and brought in Guthrie, Seeger, Hays, and others. People’s Songs churned out tunes, including a fiddle-and-guitar blues by Guthrie: “The road is rocky, but it won’t be rocky long / Gonna vote for Wallace: he can righten all our wrongs.”

It was a final electoral test of their progressive ideas, a last chance to present their case to the people. But liberals decided Wallace was “an apologist for Stalin.” And those attacks were supported by America’s labor leaders, who united to denounce Wallace as a dupe “being used by the Communists.” Crowds jeered him when he toured Indiana, Iowa, Missouri. When he campaigned in the South—with Pete Seeger, among others—Wallace refused to sleep at segregated hotels, eat at segregated restaurants, speak to segregated audiences. The locals responded by pelting him with tomatoes and eggs and shouting “nigger lover.” On election day, his Progressive Party was crushed, getting less than 3 percent of the vote. As one folksinger put it, “. . . all the hopes and dreams of the brave new postwar world came crashing down at the end of the Wallace campaign.”

That same year, Whittaker Chambers fingered Alger Hiss as part of a Communist spy ring within the US government. Richard Nixon began his rise as a young anti-Communist Republican. It was the year the California’s Un-American Activities Committee cited People’s Songs as a Communist front—and included as a “following Communist” a suspect the FBI would refer to as “Woodroe” Wilson Guthrie.

Guthrie stayed defiant, continuing to appear at Communist rallies and write for the Daily Worker. His FBI file described him as five foot five, 135 pounds, with reddish-brown, close-cropped hair, blue eyes. Under the category of Peculiarities, it noted, “Weather-beaten face.” He was thirty-six years old, the father— with two wives—of five children, and Mazia was pregnant with a sixth. His disease was more and more obvious, his most productive years behind him.

* * *

As commercial and successful as possible.

On Labor Day 1949, Guthrie drove up the Hudson River to Peekskill, New York, to a concert by Paul Robeson. The Negro actor/singer/activist had tried to appear a few days earlier, but the local papers had declared him a “subversive,” and an anti-communist crowd had blocked the entrance to the show, attacked the audience, burnt a cross on a nearby hill. “Our objective was to prevent the Paul Robeson concert,” the head of the local American Legion declared, “and I think our objective was reached.”

Determined not to be silenced, Robeson returned, and twenty thousand people gathered to hear him. Pete Seeger opened, singing with a new, as yet unnamed quartet. Meanwhile, an estimated eight thousand protesters ringed the outdoor venue, shouting, “Go back to Russia!” “Kikes!” “Nigger-lovers!” When Robeson appeared, he set his deep, operatic voice to a mix of classical pieces, spirituals like “No More Auction Block” and political songs like “Joe Hill,” which he’d helped popularize a few years earlier. He designed his program as a reminder of a progressive tradition that stretched back into American history.

When the show ended, the performers and the audience retrieved their cars and started to exit out a narrow roadway. Lee Hays, riding with Guthrie, called it a “gauntlet . . . A tunnel lined on both sides with the enemy. And docks, boards, bottles, rocks.” Police offered no protection. Instead, Hays reports, they “slowed down vehicles so the hoodlums could get better aim.” Cars were overturned, windshields smashed, passengers pulled out and beaten. It was like the vigilante men in California, like the Citizens Council in Calumet. “I’ve seen a lot,” Hays heard Guthrie mutter, “but this is the worse.” On both sides of the gauntlet, anticommunists waved signs saying, wake up, america. peekskill did!

America did, too. Early in 1950, Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy started publicizing lists of supposed communists working for the federal government. Less than three weeks after Peekskill, Russia tested its own atomic bomb. A week later, China officially became a Communist country. In June, President Truman put US troops on the ground in Korea in response to what he called “unprovoked aggression” by Communist forces.

That same month, a group called Counterattack published Red Channels, a “Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television.” It featured indexes of people and organizations that were allegedly out to “infiltrate every phase of our life.” Included along with Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Lena Horne, Arthur Miller, and many others were Will Geer, Burl Ives, Millard Lampell, Alan Lomax, Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger. Guthrie wasn’t named, but Red Channels included as Communist fronts both the American Labor Party, to which he and his wife were registered, and People’s Songs.

In the midst of this, Seeger launched the Weavers, the quartet he’d previewed at Peekskill. It was like the Almanacs but with a sweeter, more presentable sound. Its objective was to “beat the blacklist,” as member Lee Hays put it, not by attacking it directly but by being “as commercial and successful as possible.”

* * *

A certain kind of self-censoring.

Guthrie had been one of the driving spirits of the Almanacs; eight years later, he was noticeably absent from the Weavers. He wasn’t too old; Hays was only a couple years younger. And though Guthrie was famously scruffy, the rest of the Weavers needed some cleaning up, too. It may have been that his stiletto voice had no place in the group’s more commercial harmonies. Or that his disease had already taken too much of a toll. It didn’t help that he was, according to Seeger, “always an unreliable performer.” And maybe he wasn’t willing to make the political adjustment. The Weavers’ first recording was “The Peekskill Story, Pts. 1–2,” but they quickly decided to temper their radical politics. “We felt,” as Ronnie Gilbert put it, “if we sang hard enough and strong enough and hopefully enough, somehow it would make a difference.”

It worked, at least in part. Between 1950 and 1952, the group had a string of hits: Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” a sing-along “On Top of Old Smokey,” the South African “Wimoweh,” and the lilting, hummable “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.” They successfully brought folk music into the Top Forty. Or folk songs, anyway. Because on record, their jovial, uplifting sound was often cushioned in masses of horns and strings: “Almost the opposite,” Seeger later claimed, “of how we wanted to sound.” But he also admitted he was tired of “congratulating myself on not ‘going commercial.’” To break out, they entered into what Hellerman called “a certain kind of self-censoring as much aesthetic as political.”

As a result, the Weavers got to play nightclubs in New York, Miami, Las Vegas. The men dressed in matching green corduroy jackets or tuxedos, Ronnie Gilbert in an evening dress. Guthrie “really didn’t approve,” according to Seeger: “. . . we got a little too fancy for his tastes.” But Hays wrote Earl Robinson, “I am so wrapped up in the problem of what to say to this big new audience of ours that I am not in the least ashamed that the old audience is gone. . . .” In live performances, depending on the venue, the Weavers might make reference to a new and better world, or sing the Hays/Seeger tune “If I Had a Hammer,” their coded message opposing the Red Scare. But even “Hammer” was a little too much for radio and wouldn’t become a hit until a dozen years later, when the teenage Mary Travers heard the Weavers do it in concert and brought the tune to her own well-dressed folk group: Peter, Paul and Mary.

The Weavers’ politics were still radical, but their sound was genial: audience-friendly harmonies non-threatening songs that went with a clean-cut, middle-class image. Guthrie, in his own way, went with the trend. He rewrote “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya” for the Weavers, turning it into a kind of benign romantic comedy, and was soon collecting an advance check for $10,000. The Weavers’ label, Decca, went on to offer him a recording contract. His circle of friends might still have the “utmost contempt” for commercial music, but that’s what they were now making. The Weavers became part of the soundtrack for the postwar golden age, the sound of consensus.

But singing “Wimoweh” in tuxedoes couldn’t last. “The only question really,” Hellerman emphasized, “was when we would get our subpoenas.” The same month Red Channels came out, the Los Angeles office of the FBI accused Guthrie of being part of a political group whose “ultimate purpose . . . is sabotage against the United States during war with Russia.” An immediate investigation was ordered. In August, the agency declared the best way to find Guthrie would be through one “Allan Lomack.” Lomax would soon escape to England, his trip partly financed by royalties from the Weavers’ version of “Goodnight, Irene.”

Guthrie could still joke about it. In a song he wrote about the FBI, he declared, “I will point a gun for my country / But I won’t guarantee you which way.” In March 1951, the Bureau made him the subject of a Communist Index Card, raising his category of threat. That spring, Will Geer was called before HUAC. “I love America,” he testified. “I love it enough to want to make it better.” He refused to name other communists. As a result, he wouldn’t get regular acting work for two decades (when he landed the job of the patriarch on TV’s The Waltons). In the summer of 1951, a Weavers appearance on NBC was canceled, as was a booking at the Ohio State Fair. When Mother Ella Reeve Bloor died, age eighty-nine, the group made a collective decision not to attend her funeral, out of fear it would further incriminate them as Reds.

Both the Weavers and Guthrie were cited as communists at a HUAC meeting in early 1952. Decca Records dropped them both. That spring, his marriage falling apart, Guthrie was temporarily committed to Bellevue Hospital. He showed a baffling array of symptoms: staggering, slurring of speech, threats of violence and suicide. Six months later, doctors diagnosed Huntington’s chorea.

At the hospital, doctors noted that Guthrie was “ranting about the ‘Hoover gang,’” but his conspiracy theories turned out to be based in reality. The FBI had been trailing him and continued to after his release, eventually designating him for Detcom and Comsab status, categories reserved for national security threats subject to high-priority arrest in the event of war. The folk revival’s symbol of “absolute freedom” began to wander compulsively. In the summer of 1954, informers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, described him as “beat up” with “gray hair.” In early 1955, an FBI agent made a “pretext phone call” to his now ex-wife, Marjorie, and learned that Guthrie had entered Brooklyn State Hospital and was likely to be hospitalized from then on. Given his “fairly well advanced . . . deteriorating disease,” the bureau recommended to Hoover that Guthrie be taken off the Security Index. His brain was mostly fine, his loyalty still to “the only people that I love on this earth, my union hearted army,” but “chorea,” as he wrote, “gets worser and dizzier. . . .”

* * *

They don’t sing at union meetings.

In the summer of 1955, as Guthrie sat in the hospital “halfways knocked out,” Hays and Seeger were called to appear before HUAC. They shared the same lawyer, but when asked if they were now or ever had been Communists, Hays cited the Fifth Amendment, refusing to incriminate himself, where Seeger stuck to the First Amendment that granted him free speech—or silence. Asked if he’d sung for the Communist Party, Seeger answered, “I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.” The Weavers tried to struggle on, but there were almost no bookings. Seeger soon resorted to his “guerilla tactics,” cobbling together a living via appearances on college campuses and at summer camps.

The Red Scare was more than a scare—one of its victims called it the American Inquisition—and it was larger than folk music. “Our own field,” as Ronnie Gilbert noted, “was the smallest part of it.” It ran through academia, the government, organized labor. After the merger of the AFL and the CIO in 1955, the combined organization launched a concerted effort to deny communist influence. That included purging not only suspected members but any vestiges of the party, which apparently included music itself. Asked to sponsor a new union songbook, an AFL-CIO secretary responded, “What are you trying to do, make fools of us? . . . They don’t sing at union meetings. . . . I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life.”

Meanwhile, revelations about Stalin’s dictatorship shook party loyalists. The world’s primary example of functioning socialism now admitted its government had been behind widespread censorship, purges, death camps. Membership in America’s Communist Party had already fallen to twenty thousand; as the details of Stalin’s dictatorship were revealed, it plummeted to three thousand. Meanwhile, the threat of communism fed the US military: its budget went from 5 percent of the gross national product in 1950 to 13.5 percent three years later. As military spending had helped shock the nation out of the Great Depression, now it helped stimulate the golden age.

Between 1950 and 1970, the real gross national product rose by $350 billion. Basic wages for production, which had gone up by 45 percent in the late forties, rose by 56 percent in the fifties and another 44 percent in the sixties. It was the opposite of the Great Depression: now, capitalism flourished, and socialist countries looked gray, poor, repressive.

America’s economic boom was a corporate one. Between 1945 and 1960, the assets of US corporations almost tripled. It was a little like Calumet and Hecla in the copper empire, with profits going primarily to stockholders. While the golden age saw this marked increase in wealth, how it was distributed didn’t change much. The rich got richer; the percentage that went to the middle-class held even; and the poor ended up with a smaller share. Where inequality dropped in Europe after World War II, and as one economist put it, “people felt that capitalism had been overcome”—in the United States, the golden age pushed inequality past even where it had been in the early nineteenth century, the era of the Boston Associates.

The same way C&H tried to keep the economic peace by incorporating progressive ideas, American corporations in the golden age expanded health care, pensions, disability insurance. But what seemed to disappear was the idea of any alternative to capitalism. Earl Robinson called the midfifties McCarthy period “the silent generation thing.”

Beneath that silence, the folk revival still existed. In 1955, when Seeger gave a concert at a junior high school in Palo Alto, California, thirteen-year-old Joan Baez discovered who she wanted to be. In the same audience was Dave Guard, an undergraduate at Stanford University, who went on to form a Weavers-like group that turned into the Kingston Trio. Meanwhile, in San Francisco that fall, Allen Ginsberg read his poem “Howl,” and an alternative literary movement, the Beats, began, connected to what he called “a recovery of . . . folk wisdom and folk energy and folk exuberance and folk suffering. . . .” In December, Rosa Parks, having studied nonviolent protest at the Highlander Folk School, refused to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus.

A decade passed, a decade Guthrie spent in the hospital. It began with the murder of Emmett Till and ended with the murder of Malcolm X. Under presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, the Cold War heated up and became Vietnam. In the roar of the market’s golden age, manufacturing began to shift out of America; a service economy emerged. It was the decade of the so-called second folk revival that began with the Guthrie tribute concert, the decade of the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, the decade Dylan went from junior high school to the verge of pop stardom.

* * *

He wants the truth of history, updated.

On June 15, 1965, Dylan is in the studio cutting a new record. He pulls out some words he’s scribbled during his “retirement” and is now calling “Like a Rolling Stone.” That may be a nod to the Hank Williams line from “Lost Highway” or to Muddy Waters’s “Rollin’ Stone,” a blues standard about a displaced, powerful drifter, or it may refer back to the original proverb. Joe Hill, on the eve of his execution, handed a poem through the bars to his guard: “My will is easy to decide / For there is nothing to divide. / My kind don’t need to fuss and moan—/ ‘Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.’”

Dylan’s lyrics are a rush of images, but the band sounds almost sleepy, playing something close to waltz time behind the singer’s country-smooth vocal. Take after take follows with no hint of urgency or anger.

The session ends without coming up with anything usable. The band’s been playing variations on the blues, but it isn’t, finally a blues band. That’s not what the studio musicians are good at. Bloomfield is, but he’s been asked not to bend notes. It’s as if they’ve been requested to re-create history and, instead, ended up mired in old forms. If Dylan’s looking backward—and he’ll eventually call the LP Highway 61 Revisited—it’s not just to revisit the old South-to-North blues route. He wants to see what’s changed. And he wants to change it. He wants the truth of history, updated.

Dylan may have written the melody to “Like a Rolling Stone” on piano; that’s how it was first shown to the band, anyway. And he’s not known as an electric guitar player, not since Hibbing High. But now he straps one on and helps kick off the song by playing a scratchy rhythm figure: two beats, then a faster strum, then again. On electric guitar, with the band joining in, it sounds like dance music: a funky little slither, the shadow of James Brown, whose “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is all over the 1965 soul and pop charts.

The net effect, when the musicians finally hop aboard, is an odd mix. There’s still the lope of hillbilly music—the steady one-two, one-two striding across the song’s landscape—but inside that is this tight dance beat. Meanwhile, Kooper’s organ is underlining and then smearing the pattern, while Bloomfield’s playing this intricate, steady guitar pick from the country blues. Below all that, the rhythm section’s churning out big pop sounds that you might hear on a Phil Spector girl-group record.

A big pop sound is the point: they’re out to make a hit. And it works.

Leave them there, in the studio, a minute and skip forward. Once they get a finished version of the number, there will be a month’s delay. Supposedly the label balks at the song’s six-minute length (about the same as Guthrie’s “Tom Joad”). But when it finally does come out, it’ll immediately take off. Five days after its release, the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival already knows it. As traditional singers give “workshops” and concerts—the Reverend Gary Davis introducing his last song by saying, “This is the truth”—Dylan will appear in leather jacket and tight black pants. One of the festival’s board members will call Dylan’s electric set “[an] explosion of lights, sound, and anger.” Seeger and others will complain about that explosion—about the volume, or maybe it’s the look. Or how short Dylan’s set is. Or how he’s betrayed the Guthrie tradition, dropped the cherished banner. Or how his voice is wailing over and inside the song. But within a week, the single will be at number two in America, topped only by the Beatles’ “Help.”

It’s a hit, a Top Ten song. Over the next forty years of his career, Dylan will only have three others, and none will chart higher. “I think ‘Like A Rolling Stone,’” he’ll say, six months into its success, “is definitely the thing which I do. After writing that I wasn’t interested in writing a novel, or a play. I just had too much, I want to write songs.”

But all that’s in the future. It wasn’t a hit or even a song till he and the musicians found it.

* * *

Here we go! Where are we going?

Back in the studio, they do fifteen takes. On some, Dylan screws up the words; others have technical difficulties; and often, as Wilson points out, “Something’s wrong time-wise.” They’re not improvising exactly, but the producer and singer have deliberately set up a situation where nobody quite knows what they’re doing. It has some of the spontaneous feel of a Lomax field recording or one of Guthrie’s marathon Asch sessions. That’s part of the truth as Dylan understands it, that it has to sound fresh, that neither the musicians nor the listeners can know what’s coming.

On the take they’ll finally use, the drums’ opening smack seems to surprise the band. “Here we go! Where are we going?” The organ hits and holds, sounding churchlike, and then there’s that dancey rhythm guitar figure.

“Once upon a time,” the singer begins. He’s said it a little tentatively in other tries, but now he’s sure: we’re going down into the past, hold on tight. His voice is a little rushed, slurring the lyrics, almost as if they don’t really matter. But there’s that confidence, that authority: he knows what he’s hunting for.

The song’s aimed at a woman, but maybe more important, at someone who’s made it. Or had it made. The singer talks directly to her, his voice calm at first, the musicians working beside him as he starts to list the things she’s done, the life she’s led. It’s almost a formal accusation, a grievance letter like the one the copper miners sent to management. When the singer asks her to confirm—you did do these things, “didn’t you?”—his voice gets its first hint of anger.

The way the melody works, each verse doubles back on itself— rising as if to crescendo, then returning—and that suits the story line. The singer lists what the woman’s done and then comes back to point out how things have changed. You used to dress fine, now you’re scrounging. The tune keeps doing this, descending as it repeats, till—led by the organ’s sustained chords, it has the potential to turn into a harangue, a litany of failure. Except Bloomfield’s guitar is stirring, and a tambourine’s banging away, and when the verse ends by explaining what she’s been scrounging for, it’s on a high, held note: “your next me-eee-al!”

The singer’s been studying for this moment, studying—among others—Woody Guthrie’s stiletto. It’s this sound, this held note, that signals the beginning of the truth.

Dylan’s used the approach and the structure before. “Like a Rolling Stone” is another restless farewell, another repeating pattern he can break and bump against. But as he rides the held note out of the verse and into the chorus, something else happens. “It’s a whole way of doing things,” Dylan will say, a year after the session. “I’m not talking about words. It’s a certain feeling, and it’s been on every single record I’ve ever made. That has not changed.”

How does it feel?

That question, at the start of the chorus, switches the song into suddenly more than a harangue, something more open-ended than that—directed not just at her but at us. And it’s a question in form only. The music, the release, the last of the singer’s escaping breath gives the answer.

How does it feel? It feels good. It feels great.

What does? Well, being alone, having no destination, discovering that you’re a stranger. He could be describing the classic Woody Guthrie outlaw, except this isn’t a song about a rambling hero. He’s not asking about her “hard travelin.’” No, the question here is how it feels to have been prosperous, to have had it made, and then to see it all come crashing down. And the answer the music gives is that it feels great.

There’s the squib of a harmonica that abruptly stops. No time for that now; we’re still gaining momentum.

The second verse is fiercer, both lyrically and in how it’s delivered. As soon as the past is laid out—her time attending “the finest school”—the ground is cut out from under: “But you only used to get juiced in it.” The loss is immediate, followed (as the verse doubles back) by the consequence: the sudden and unavoidable need to make a “de-eee-al!” It’s that high held note again, and the chorus is already nearly familiar enough for us to sing along. It now has the magnetism of a hit, something anybody in a bar or driving or walking home from school can chime in on, knowing the question, knowing the answer. Great! It feels great.

Again, the squib of a harmonica; still no time for it.

“Awww!” the singer yells as he enters the third verse. He’s plainly angry now, even lecturing a little. You never cared, he says; you thought you were above it; “You shouldn’t”—a noticeable pause to underline the words—“let other people get your”—another pause— “kicks for you.”

This isn’t labor history; the song has nothing to do with labor history. But the piano’s quick boogie-woogie shake is pissed at one class of people doing and the other just riding along, observing. As the verse does its double-back, the consequences grow. The consen- sus that’s been struck—this golden age, this prosperous status quo— has taken everything from you it could—the held note—“ste-ee-al.” On the third go-round of the chorus, the singer blows a lyric and just leaves it that way. Screw it; the sound is what matters. And the sound is a howl that should be the end of the song. We’ve all had to compromise; we’re all paying the price; we’ve all lost on the deal. What else is there to say?

This time, the harmonica squibs a little longer, like it’s trying to shake free.

But instead of fading out, the band cranks up another notch. Somehow the rhythm section finds the strength to go on not only longer, but harder, higher.

The storyteller returns to once upon a time, to that mythical past when there was a “princess on a steeple.” She spent her days “Exchanging all precious gifts,” amused at how the mighty had fallen. When the verse doubles back, the singer tells her—tells us—that’s over. And in this new era, we’d better go back to those who’ve fallen—we’ve got to go back—because we’ve ended up with nothing. And that brings on the final exhilarating news: “You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conce-ee-al. . . .”

That’s where this history brings us: to a new start. Not a fresh start; there’s been too much past for that.

* * *

From Grown-up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 by Daniel Wolff. Copyright © 2017 by Daniel Wolff. Reprinted by permission of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.