"Folkways: A Vision Shared" - Various Artists

Compilation Album

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Full Track Listing:

  • Sylvie – Sweet Honey in the Rock (2:06)
  • Pretty Boy Floyd – Bob Dylan (4:26)
  • Do Re Mi – John Mellencamp (3:24)
  • I Ain’t Got No Home – Bruce Springsteen (3:44)
  • Jesus Christ – U2 (3:13)
  • Rock Island Line – Little Richard / Fishbone (2:34)
  • East Texas Red – Arlo Guthrie (5:36)
  • Philadelphia Lawyer – Willie Nelson (3:01)
  • Hobo’s Lullaby – Emmylou Harris (2:43)
  • The Bougeois Blues – Taj Mahal (2:46)
  • Gray Goose – Sweet Honey in the Rock (2:11)
  • Goodnight Irene – Brian Wilson (2:39)
  • Vigilante Man – Bruce Springsteen (4:14)
  • This Land is Your Land – Pete Seegar with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Doc Watson and the Little Red School House Chorus (3:46)

Background Information

“Folkways: A Vision Shared” was put together to raise funds for the Smithsonian Institution to buy historical recordings, specifically the Folkways Record catalog. The album itself is a tribute to the works of Woody Guthrie and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, a pair of songwriters who had recording careers in the 1930s. The songs included on the compilation are songs they would have recorded. The album was produced by Guthrie’s long time business manager, Harold Leventhal. U2’s contribution to the album was the song “Jesus Christ”, a song written by Woody Guthrie in 1940.

The song “Jesus Christ” was recorded in Sun Studios, in Memphis Tennessee, a famous studio where many of the greats such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash had recorded. In the same session U2 recorded “Angel of Harlem”, “Love Rescue Me”, “When Love Comes to Town” and an unreleased version of “She’s a Mystery to Me”. The recordings sessions at Sun Studios were recorded with Jack “Cowboy” Clement who had started work at Sun Studios in 1953, and had worked with most of the artists who had recorded there. Portions of these recording sessions can be seen in the “Rattle and Hum” movie.

Bono spoke about choosing the song “Jesus Christ” in the video release: “‘Jesus Christ’ is a song that has to be sung. No question about it. Well you know U2 wanted to sing it. We have to sing that song. Cause it’s more relevant today than it was even when he wrote it.We decided to do that because of the lines ‘the bankers and the preachers they nailed him in the air.’ You know I’ve said it before but these people that we see on our television sets, you know the TV evangelists who literally are stealing money from the sick and the old. I suppose the songs of Woody Guthrie had something to do with the truth, whatever that is. There’s a lie that’s very popular right now, which is that you can’t make a difference, that you can’t change our world. The songs on the radio perpetuate that lie. A lot of the songs you hear on the radio today perpetuate that lie. For me. They seem to me they have words but they don’t mean anything. They have a melody and they have music but that the music just sounds the same. It is the same; it’s the same song. It puts people in this big sleep and I think Woody Guthrie’s music was much more awake than that.”

The album was released at the end of August 1988, and a few weeks later, on September 17, 1988, a TV special by the same name was aired on Showtime and was later issued on VHS, and later DVD. That documentary shows U2 in photos while the song “Jesus Christ” plays, and part way through the song interupts for the above interview with Bono before returning to the song. At the end of the video a number of performers sing “This Land is Your Land” alongside a video of Woodie Guthrie singing the song. For this Bono is one of the performers, with the Edge playing guitar in the background. This is not the performance of “This Land is Your Land” that is on the audio release, that version does not include Bono or the Edge. They are only present in the version on the VHS / DVD release of “A Vision Shared”.

In 2004 U2 would release the song as part of one of their releases for the first time and it appeared on “The Complete U2” digital album as one of the tracks on the “Unreleased and Rare” digital album. In 2008 the track would also be released as a song on the fan club only release, “Medium, Rare and Remastered”.

Liner Notes

Jesus Christ:
Bono: Vocals, Harmonica. The Edge: Guitar. Adam Clayton: Bass. Larry Mullen Jr.: Drums. Produced by Jimmy Iovine. Associate Producer: Jack “Cowboy” Clement. Engineered by David R. Ferguson. Mixed by Shelly Yakus.

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