Canned Heat, “Going Up The Country”

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Bonnaroo starts in a few days, with dozens of bands and artists taking its stages. Lollapalooza, Summerfest, and many more huge music festivals occur around the world these days. But nothing will ever be quite like the one that started it all in August 1969: Woodstock. And there will never be another artist quite like Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson, who wrote and sang the band’s single “Going Up The Country” and performed it on the second day of that legendary, record-shattering event.

A song about getting away from the rat race of the city and heading for a rural area, “Going Up The Country” had been a Canned Heat hit before Woodstock. But it became Woodstock’s unofficial anthem, since getting out of town and back to nature was what the festival on Max Yasgur’s New York farm represented to so many. The song had been a track on Canned Heat’s Living the Blues album the year before, and had reached number 11 on the Billboard singles chart. Being performed at Woodstock, and its inclusion on the festival’s triple-LP soundtrack recording, helped prolong the song’s life and the life of the band as well. The studio version of the song was played over a video montage in the Woodstock movie, but the band’s live performance wasn’t included in the original film.

“Going Up the Country” is basically a 12-bar blues that was undeniably inspired by the song “Bull-Doze Blues” by 1920s songster Henry Thomas. Alan Wilson, a devotee of the music from that era, was no doubt familiar with Thomas’ song. The lyrics of “Bull-Doze Blues,” repetitious lines about Thomas leaving his woman and then changing his mind, have nothing in common with Wilson’s lyrics, lines... Sign In to Keep Reading

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