Mermaid Avenue


Recorded in Dublin in 1998, Mermaid Avenue is the first full album of songs written by contemporary artists with Guthrie’s lyrics. Nora Guthrie invited British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and American band Wilco to set many of Woody’s unpublished lyrics to music. The collaboration continued in the second and third volumes of Mermaid Avenue (2000 and 2012). Since 1998, under Nora’s stewardship, over one hundred of Woody’s unpublished lyrics have been set to music by contemporary artists. Nora chose the house on the album cover for its similarity to the old Guthrie home on Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue.

Billy Bragg and Wilco
Mermaid Avenue
Elektra, 1998


Steve Earle: With Woody’s physical absence, the torch was passed to a new round of singers and songwriters, often referred to as “Woody’s Children.” Generations of musicians have been influenced by Woody’s hard-hitting songs and straight-talking stories of inequality and injustice as well as hope and humor. Woody’s lyrics have been cemented in the canon of American music, with songs like This Land Is Your Land, Deportee, Union Maid, Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore, All You Fascists Bound To Lose, Hard Travelin’, and newly released songs like California Stars, My Peace, I’m Shipping Up To Boston, and Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key.

Steve Earle: After his collaboration with Woody on the Mermaid Avenue 3-disc project, English singer/songwriter and activist Billy Bragg shared his thoughts:

Billy Bragg: “When it comes to the genre of sing songwriters as a genre of a people who write personal songs with a bit of social edge, all roads lead to Woody Guthrie.”

Steve Earle: American musician, feminist icon, and activist Ani DiFranco shared these words about Woody’s enduring influence:

Ani DiFranco: “He was a rebel. He was childlike. He was thoughtful. He was deep. He was adventurous. You know, he was all the things you want in your hero, in your artist.”

Steve Earle: And Bruce Springsteen had these words for Woody’s daughter, Nora, when she presented him with the 2021 Woody Guthrie Prize.

Bruce Springsteen: “Your father is the grandfather of my country. He was the first music where I found a reflection of America that I believed to be true. Where I believed that the veils had been pulled off and what I was seeing was the real country that I live in, and what was at stake for the people and the citizenry who are my neighbors and friends. And that drove me deeply, deeply into a direction that, without his influence, coming at that exact moment (I was 30 years old)...we began performing "This Land is Your Land" in concerts. I don't know if I would ever have gotten there, if I would ever have found that kind of hope, that kind of dedication to putting your work into some form of action. And, uh, just a deeper telling of the stories of folks whose stories I always felt often go unheard.”

Steve Earle: Woody’s impact is still heard today—speaking up for what’s right, fighting on the front lines, telling true stories of the people. His voice is heard across all genres of music, from folk to punk, jazz to klezmer, classical to hip hop. Because as Woody himself wrote, “I ain’t dead yet.”

Woody Guthrie: “Take it Easy, but Take it”