Musician Steve Goodman in concert. Handout photo.
Updated: January 14, 2012 8:05AM
The 127 songs on “Live From the Old Town School” are a cross-section of local and American folk history during the last 55 years, from social statements to commercial successes. Here are some standout tracks in the set:
WFMT studios, date unknown
Co-authored with fellow local native John Prine, Goodman’s 1977 paean to the previous century remains a great sing-along, not to mention it’s still relevant and prescient (“Winter’s getting colder, summer’s getting hotter”).
Jeff Tweedy, "Three is a Magic Number"
Old Town School, 4544 N. Lincoln, Feb. 17, 2002
Leave it to the Wilco leader to pull out this song for a family show. The first of the “Schoolhouse Rock” songs is full of math, which Tweedy jangles through with tuneful ease.
Mahalia Jackson, "Move On Up"
Venue unknown, 1956
Jackson opens this performance by introducing the songwriter, a local teacher who “don’t teach gospel, she teaches that high-class stuff.” But Jackson, supported on piano by Thomas Dorsey, elevates the tune with her superlative voice in this clear recording.
Pete Seeger, "Roll the Union On"
People’s Church, May 17, 1986
Seeger appears elsewhere in the set, namely in a 1956 duet with Big Bill Broonzy on “Midnight Special,” but he’s still so spirited in this later concert. “A song like this has been sung on so many picket lines you forget what a really good song it is,” Seeger says, indicating how many of these songs are a wellspring for the spaces we still Occupy today.
Andrew Bird, "Dear Old Greenland"
Old Town School, 4544 N. Lincoln, Sept. 15, 2000
Four songs from this concert appear on the set, featuring indie-fave Bird thrown onstage to open for Dan Hicks at the last minute with a band he hadn’t rehearsed with. But all four songs, like this arch ode to the tundra, are fine folk tunes straight from the school’s repertoire — no pop, no whistling. A must for fans seeking to fly farther.