Modern day troubadour Billy Bragg comes to Australia this October with a special new two part show: the first half celebrating the legacy of Woody Guthrie, the original alternative musician, and the second exploring Billy’s own extensive repertoire, highlighting the songs that have made him famous over his almost three decade, 14-album career.
2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Woody Guthrie, folk singer and ‘dust-bowl troubadour’, a prolific writer whose songs, ballads, prose and poetry championed the plight of the underdog. Billy Bragg has a special musical affinity with Woody – when Woody’s daughter Nora unearthed a treasure trove of her father’s unrecorded lyrics after his death, Billy Bragg and Wilco worked together setting these to music, creating the critically acclaimed Mermaid Avenuealbums. The Complete Sessions has just been released, including Mermaid Avenue Vol. III. Billy will play songs from Woody’s extensive repertoire as well as the Mermaid Avenue albums, givingaudiences new insights into one of the most influential figures in popular music, a man who inspired artists from Bob Dylan to Joe Strummer, as well as Billy himself.
Billy Bragg, ‘the Bard from Barking’, famously started out as a tank driver in the British Army. Things didn’t work out – “When you’ve driven one tank, you’ve driven them all”– and in early 1982 he found himself back on the streets of Barking, writing songs. Drawing inspiration from the DIY ethos of punk rock, he decided to take on the world single-handedly, armed with only an electric guitar. His first album, ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy’ came out in 1983.
Billy was politicised by Rock Against Racism in the late 1970s. He marshalled his songs in opposition to Margaret Thatcher, supporting the miners when they went on strike in 1984 and subsequently founding Red Wedge, a collective of left wing musicians who campaigned for the defeat of Thatcher at the 1987 election. Throughout his career, Billy Bragg has remained contemporary, providing his insightful, clear-eyed yet hopeful commentary on our times through social, political and technological change.
Although often defined by his political songs, Billy is also a writer of great love songs. He said “I write about the things make me angry: sometimes it’s the government, sometimes it’s the girl.”His songs describe the emotional peaks and troughs of love, navigating the difficult terrain of modern relationships.