Musical Appreciation ► Woody Guthrie’s Centennial

If ‘Merka ever had a national troubadour, it would have been Woody Guthrie. Among his legacy of hundreds — some say thousands — of songs include “This Land Is Your Land,” considered by many to be an alternate ‘Merkin National Anthem. However, he also wrote “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On,” considered the Folk song of the state of Washington.

Those who cite Woody Guthrie as an influence include every Folk singer who ever plucked a string, along with a whole raft of Rockers. Consequently, anyone citing those musicians are just further links in the chain that start with Woody, considered one of ‘Merka’s first singer-songwriters.

In the early ’30s Guthrie joined the Dust Bowl migration to California, where he first became known singing Hillbilly music. It was here he first met Socialists and began his political journey farther and farther to the left. After leaving California he rarely stopped moving. Wandering troubadours go back to ancient times, but few traveled as
extensively as Guthrie. At one time he bragged to have been in 45 of the
(then) 48 states.

According to the official Woody Guthrie web site:

The late 1940’s and early 1950’s saw a rise in anti-Communist sentiments. Leftist and progressive-minded Americans were subjected to Red-scare tactics such as “blacklisting.” Many people, particularly in the arts and entertainment fields, either lost their jobs or were prevented from working in their chosen careers. The Weavers, along with Woody, Pete Seger, and others from their circle, were targeted for their activist stances on such issues as the right to unionize, equal rights, and free speech.

Isn’t it telling that leftists and progressives are still fighting the same battles? Woody Guthrie believed in the power of music to transform (as do I). And that’s why on his guitar was the slogan THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.

However, AS ALWAYS, it’s the music that endures. Here’s a Woody Guthrie Jukebox:

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

1 thought on “Musical Appreciation ► Woody Guthrie’s Centennial

  1. When I was learning guitar, I saw Guthrie's name a lot because so much of his stuff is considered beginner's level. When I began transitioning into rock songs, I noticed that a lot of the classic names (most notably Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater) had a huge stake in his influence on their strummed songs.

    Even today, I'm picking up a lot of him in the acoustic sets, even the non-folk. It's simply amazing.

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