We will be in Wisconsin for a few days tending to a writers’ conference and taking in the sites. Here are a few tunes to get us in the mood for the land of great cheese and serene woods. You can always check out the playlist in its ever-evolving state on Spotify.
Lake Marie: Hooo boy. What a song. What imagery. Told in three parts, John Prine spares no storytelling technique as he illustrates the myth and lore and tragedy and personal connection to this seemingly quiet little lake that sits back from the highway. What do I love most about this song? The onomatopoeia: sausages ssssizzling and faces slashed by some sssssharp object. And shadows! Shadows! There’s probably good reason this song is rumored to be Bob Dylan’s favorite song of all time.
Me and Paul: Another tune where I get to pick from a list of locales. For this one Willie Nelson tells tales of road woes, including a pre-TSA incident where Willie is denied passage on his flight out of Milwaukee. In case you’re wondering, the titular Paul is Willie’s long-time drummer who died in 2020. They worked together for a mere six decades—so, you know, they had some high ol’ times together, I’m sure.
On, Wisconsin: Way back in 1961, a kid named Robert Zimmerman was transforming into the demigod known as Bob Dylan. He wrote an ode to everyone’s favorite American dairy state (sorry, New Jersey) that never saw the inside of a recording studio. Much like the tale behind Old Crow Medicine Show’s breakthrough song, Wagon Wheel, the lyrics were completed decades later by an up-and-comer named Trapper Schoepp. The story behind the song may be more interesting than the song itself, but in my quest to find a Dylan song about nearly every state, this will have to suffice.