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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 182
Wed. July 11, 2012

“Another Man’s Done Gone”
Wilco & Billy Bragg
1998

Contentious is a word that best described the Mermaid Avenue sessions which led to the acrimony between Wilco and Billy Bragg. “You make your record, and I’ll make mine, fucker,” was what Bragg told Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy after the complete of the Mermaid Avenue in Greg Kot’s extraordinary biographical tome— Wilco: Learning How To Die. “That’s not the point, Billy. It’s not your record; it’s not our record. It’s Woody Guthrie’s record. ” Tweedy replied to no avail.

“♫ Sometimes I think
I’m gonna lose my
mind/ but it don’t look
like I ever do/ I’ve loved
so many people every
where I went/ some
too much, and others
not enough
♫”

Kot described, the highlight of the session was the recording of “Another Man’s Done Gone,” as “eleven lines, every one precious. They’re the words of a dying man clinging to his last hope for immortality.”

While, Tweedy took a quick nap, Bragg and Bennett originally came up with the melody. Nora Guthrie witnessed the creation of her father’s “Another Man’s Done Gone” before her very ears. Tweedy woke up, picked up the microphone and sang Woody’s lyrical epitaph. Kot described the magic in the recording studio when he wrote:

Tweedy sang it and brought grown men to tears” Billy Bragg felt it, too. “It was a moment and then it was done,” he says. “A true collaboration. Nora found the lyrics. I had written the music, Jay played it and Jeff sang it in a way that was beyond personal. It’s a song of despair, a man facing death wondering if anyone will remember him if he’s gone. And that performance was the four of us sending a clear message out to Woody that his scribbling was immortal.”

“♫ Well I don’t
know/ I may go
down or up or any
where/ but I feel
like this scribbling
might stay
♫”

“Another Man’s” doesn’t just showcase the legacy of the late great Woody Guthrie; “Done Gone” is now the musical legacy of the deceased ex-Wilco collaborator Jay Bennett. What better way to be immortalized in the one of the only near perfect moments in the whole Mermaid Ave. recording sessions, when the spirit of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics reflected the unsung brilliance of the multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett.

“♫ Maybe if I hadn’t
seen so much hard
feelings/ I might not
could’ve felt other
people’s/ so when you
think of me, if and when
you do/ just say, “Well,
another man’s done gone
♫”

Woody Guthrie, the legendary songsmith and Jay Bennett the song catcher—both, gone—but not forgotten.

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