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Folk Music Wishlist for Glee Theme Episodes

A look at folksingers whose catalogs would be well worth a Glee episode

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Prime time TV hasn't exactly evolved as the greatest place to experience musical theater. Yet, Glee has impressed everyone from awkward teens to the Emmy committee with its ability to create stories which balance teen drama with musical theater and relentless determination to cheer for the underdog. Last season, a number of well-known pop artists got an entire Glee episode dedicated solely to their catalogs. So, what about folksingers? I have some ideas of how the creaters of Glee can satisfy the folk music crowd - organized from "not unrealistic" to "not a chance, but wouldn't it be great if..."

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Fantasty Episode SynopsisBob Dylan is the most obvious folksinger to whom the New Directions may choose to pay tribute this season. Perhaps the kids are frustrated with always singing bubblegum pop and Broadway tunes, and are looking for a chance to be a little more edgy. Mr. Schu comes in one day, writes Bob Dylan's name on the board, and tells them it's time to learn about edginess from American folk music's most famous rebel. This would be a great episode for one of those beloved "Battle of the Sexes" assignments, since Dylan's melodies work beautifully with both male and female voices. 

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The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas
photo: Frank Driggs Collection/Getty

Fantasy Episode Synopsis: Where last year seemed to be gearing up all season for a National competition in New York City, perhaps this year's Nationals will take place is LA. The whole thing kicks off with Mr. Schuster and other teachers taking a rare adults-only turn on "Monday, Monday," before he opens the envelope which announces where this year's Glee Club Nationals will take place. With that revelation, the New Directions burst into a choral version of "California Dreamin'" - Rachel beautifully captures Mama Cass's range; Finn nicely handles most of the guys' vocal parts.   

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Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
photo: Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Fantasy Episode Synopsis: Brittany never gets to make the call about what the New Directions are singing, so this time Mr. Schu hands the reins to her. Much to the Glee club's surprise, it turns out she's an enormous superfan of Johnny Cash. As the episode focuses on her, we see that her locker and bedroom are plastered with images of the Man in Black. Finn and Puck have to musically duke it out for who gets to sing lead on Johnny Cash week. Puck delivers a convincing "Folsom Prison Blues," while Finn opts for "Ring of Fire." Blaine serenades Kurt with "The Ways of a Woman in Love," and even Mr. Schu gets in on the fun with "Sunday Morning Coming Down." 

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Joan Baez

Joan Baez
© Dana Tynan

Fantasy Episode Synopsis: Rachel is fed up with Mr. Schu choosing music made (or at least written by) men. When the Glee club focuses on women, she complains, they choose "oversexed" women not always "appropriate" for high school audiences. (She's on one of her particularly puritanical streaks - perhaps Finn has a wandering eye for an overtly sexier exchange student.) Though she has enjoyed singing the hits of Gaga and Britney, she thinks everyone might be served by delving into the music of trailblazer women like Joan Baez. It turns out, though, the song she wants most to sing is much more beautifully delivered by Kurt.

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Pete Seeger

photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Fantasy Episode Synopsis: The New Directions need new costumes just as Puck gets in trouble again. This time his community service involves volunteering at an elementary school. Looking to save face with his friends in the Glee club, he suggests they can perform a gig for the children at the elementary school and come out with some extra cash to pay for the costumes. Ever the over-achiever, Rachel becomes obsessed with finding fun songs to sing to the kids, and happens upon Pete Seeger. Touched by the simplicity of his songs, she believes they'll be perfect to sing to the children.

Suggestions:

  • Mash-up of "Little Boxes" and "Froggy Went a-Courtin'" (Puck and Artie) 
  • "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (Quinn and Finn) | purchase/download

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie
courtesy Rounder Records

Fantasy Episode Synopsis: Upset about MicKinley High's performance on a new standardized test aimed at social studies knowledge, Principal Wiggins decides its time the staff focus harder on the subject. He requires all teachers to work it into their curriculum one way or another, and Mr. Schuster decides the best he can do is mandate the Glee club spend a week on Woody Guthrie. As the students perform selections from Guthrie's catalog in pairs, for each other, the episode ends with a group performance of a mashup of "This Land Is Your Land" with whatever pop song is their favorite this season, during regionals. 

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