Grown-up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913

Written by Daniel Wolff
Review by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Rather than a mystery, Grown-Up Anger is a complex braiding of the personal, socio-political, and musical journeys of major figures of the 20th-century folk and protest song movement, with special reference to Woody Guthrie’s bitter ode to the 1913 massacre of innocents during a strike at a Michigan copper mine. Wolff’s structure, in Dylan’s words, is “freewheeling,” with multiple timelines and scores of players. Readers learn the roots of Dylan’s compositions in traditional melodies and Tin Pan Alley string-band riffs, and the fact that Woody Guthrie didn’t hitch or ride the rails as much as drive his own car cross-country. We see how biting social protest songs got softened to hit pop tunes, and catchy verses galvanized powerful social movements. An extensive bibliography and index make this a valuable resource for scholars and followers of this musical tradition. Other readers may find themselves skimming to catch intriguing anecdotes and connections.