Joel Rafael, a longtime student of Woody Guthrie, has composed the music to five Guthrie lyrics, released two albums of new and familiar Guthrie songs, and returns to Woodyfest for his 21st year. Besides bringing his own songs to the stage, Rafael has teamed up with Bad Dog, the seminal band and alter ego of John Trudell, spoken word activist and former American Indian Movement leader. After John’s transition to the spirit world in December 2015, the band asked Joel to carry on Trudell’s work by performing with them. Bad Dog is Mark Shark on lead guitar and vocals, Ricky Eckstein on keyboards and bass, Debra Dobkin on percussion and drums, Quilt Sahme and son Tewahnee on vocals, and Joel Rafael, spoken word.
After hearing John Trudell speak at Peace Sunday in 1982, Rafael became an advocate for Indigenous Rights, sharing John’s words and following his trail for over 20 years until the two began regularly performing and eventually writing together.
John Trudell did not set out to be a poet. He took that road primarily through a series of detours, and his poetic and political sensibilities were forged by the remarkable, sometimes horrifying circumstances of his life, including the deaths of his three children, his wife and unborn child, and his wife’s mother, which sent him into a state of wandering and despair. His “lines,” as he called them, are thought-provoking pathways to greater thinking and appreciation of ourselves, and our relationship to the earth, and the stars. To carry on his lines, the members of Bad Dog walk away from their various bands and artistic pursuits to bring John’s words to the stage.