Sunday, July 29, 2012

Woody Guthrie turns 100


This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don't give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do. (Wikiquotes)
Those are the words of Woody Guthrie, America’s most prolific songwriter and an icon of Americana. He made almost no money off of his work, freely bequeathing his uniquely-American music to the country he loved.

Jeffrey Weiss has written a nice essay commemorating the 100th birthday of American folk hero Woody Guthrie.
He was a staunch if unconventional American patriot who risked his life for the nation. He was totally willing to work for an honest dollar, even if that dollar had capitalistic ties. And he was a lifetime respecter of religion, while not much willing to get pinned down to any particular faith.
About that patriotism part: during World War II, he served as a Merchant Marine, cleaning pots and pans. Two of his ships were blown up from under him. And he got back on the third. Few of his current critics can offer a comparable record of bravery for the nation.
And capitalism? While he sang plenty for free or little, he got paid when he could. In 1941, he took a one-month government job. He got paid $266.66 to write a song a day about the Bonneville Power Administration, which was selling new hydroelectric electricity to municipalities and industries in the Pacific Northwest. Woody was hired to create what amounts to pro-power propaganda. The songs from that month included several that ended up classics: "Grand Coulee Dam," "Pastures of Plenty," " Roll On Columbia" and "Jackhammer Blues." (Most writers go a lifetime without penning that many memorable songs. Woody did it in a month.) (Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie)
I love Woody’s music. It is raw and real, you can taste the dust of the roads he traveled, hear the click clack of the trains, and see the vast landscapes he sings about. I like his gritty, dusty songs like Hard Travelin', but he shows his diversity of subjects with his sea chantey, What did the Deep Sea Say, which I also appreciate.

Recordings of him are unrehearsed and unenhanced by modern studio technology. His voice is not pretty, and everything is not always pitch-perfect, but it is a true slice of America, especially with Lead Belly backing him with that masterful, thrumming 12-string that never misses a lick. And that’s not to take anything away from his fellow merchant marine and frequent musical sidekick, Cisco Houston. They all made a lot of music and it has become a part of our national heritage.

Fun Trivia – Woody Guthrie

38 comments:

conservativesonfire said...

Not much of a singer, but he wrote great songs that painted pictures of the world as he saw it.

Radical Redneck said...

Woody Guthrie, Commie. We all know it is impossible to love your country and be critical of it at the same time. Remind you of someone else we all know?

KP said...

Good stuff, SF!

Mustang said...

I think it is possible to love your country and loathe your government. The way I see it, it is sort of like being a parent who loves his or her child dearly, but deplores their behavior. Mr. Guthrie was very much a man of his own time, and we ought to remember what a tough time that was for America.

Ducky's here said...

He had a vision of America that has considerable appeal and we've lost that vision and the ability to find it.

A Pissed Off Irishman said...

Ducky's here said...
"He had a vision of America that has considerable appeal and we've lost that vision and the ability to find it."


Yeah right, the same as yours!

Z said...

I've been a fan of Arlo Guthrie's (surprisingly, a Republican) and wish I could find an old album I had of his. I loved "Come on, children, come on".


Woody..."you can taste the dust of the roads he traveled.." well said. and true.

Jack Whyte said...

Life imitates art; don’t ask me why. I suppose because the freak Oscar Wilde said so. But, since we’re talking about art, Guthrie’s music appealed to many people in his own time, the poor down trodden who were content to feel sorry for themselves, join unions, and demand that a nanny state save them. Contrast that with another art form: the scene from Bagger Vance when a successful businessman, having lost his source of income, took a job sweeping the city streets and opening his home as a boarding house rather than going on the dole. Here, we see the presentment of two Americas; I reject the former, and this is why I have never been a fan of Woody Guthrie.

Cinnamon Girl said...

I guess he was before my time, but if he is or was a commie then I'd put him right up there with Pete" Seeger or in modern day standards, Bruce Springsteen .

Finntann said...

You've gotta walk that lonesome valley,
You've gotta walk it by yourself,
There's nobody here can walk it for you,
You've gotta walk it by yourself.

You've gotta sleep in a lonesome graveyard
You've gotta sleep there by yourself
Nobody here can sleep there for you
You've gotta sleep there by yourself

There's a road that'll take you to glory
Through a valley not far away
Nobody here can go there for you
They can only point the way

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEEA1kQXEI8&feature=related

Shaw Kenawe said...

Jack Whyte:

"Guthrie’s music appealed to many people in his own time, the poor down trodden who were content to feel sorry for themselves, join unions, and demand that a nanny state save them. Contrast that with another art form: the scene from Bagger Vance when a successful businessman, having lost his source of income, took a job sweeping the city streets and opening his home as a boarding house rather than going on the dole. Here, we see the presentment of two Americas; I reject the former, and this is why I have never been a fan of Woody Guthrie."


The story you refer to comes from a fictional novel. It never happened except in the author's imagination.

Woody Guthrie and the people he sang about were real. Your gross characterization of them as grasping, undeserving, government leeches is unworthy of the tribulations and deprivations they suffered. But it's a predictably sneering view of those less fortunate than you. And a good example of how a lot of conservatives see those who are less successful than they are.


"The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." [Ecclesiastes 9:11]

Z said...

Jack, I agree with you. There were plenty of Bagger Vances who'd never go on welfare. Please look into Star Parker's story and see how badly she'd sunken into the system and finally pulled herself out and now speaks against it.
To the Left, that means she has no heart and thinks everyone should be thrown out on the street. This is a ridiculous extrapolation that's choking America because it stops all thought and chances for agreement.
SHe's BEEN THERE, DONE THAT and tells about it now.
Sometimes, true stories don't sink in to those with an agenda which demands they don't consider others.

Funny that Arlo, his son, is a Republican who supports unions. Maybe he learned during the Wisconsin fiasco that that wasn't the wisest stance, either.

Apparently, if one doesn't support the way unions have driven manufacturing out of this country, one is for $2.00 an hour salaries, going back to child labor, and soup lines. It never makes sense to insult people via extreme rhetoric.

Another thing; the Guthrie family is plagued with the gene for Huntington's Disease, which Woody died from in his late fifties, I believe...but it seems Arlo's not affected. At least I hope not, because he's in his late Sixties now. Thd family's done good work in supporting a cure for years.

Ducky's here said...

Well, Jack Whyte, that's an interesting take on Guthrie.

A man who wrote lyrics to reflect the social reality he saw and promote a populist spirit is rejected in favor of some schlock film.

Never putting two and two together and realizing that the people Woody wrote about did indeed clean the streets. Yeah, some had the temerity to join unions

Damn Commies deserved it

Ducky's here said...

If that didn't suit you

Z said...

"A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left."
Ecclesiastes 10:2

Steve said...

Right Z, like the Bible was talking about 21st century Republiscums.
Twisting your false Gods again. Just like twisting today's truth to fit your fantasy of Republiscum utopia.

FreeThinke said...

If you like the smell, taste and feel of dust and dirt, grit, shit, piss, sweat, bad breath, unwashed bodies and desperation, fine.

By all means go for it! Be my guest.

Jack Whyte has it right.

The broad acceptance and celebration of the lowdown, badass, hardscrabble rough and tumble as what the REAL America is all about has been a big part of what's bringing us to ruin.

The life of this anti-hero is the life of drunk, a rolling stone, an iconoclast and a loser. The worst kid of role model we could ever hope our youth would not follow.

Take your pathetic howling, bawling, mewling, moaning, groaning, croaking, snivelling lamentations, Woody baby, and keep them out in the sticks where they belongs.

I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOUR COMMIE CRAP, BOZO.

You AND Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and all the rest of your whining, droning, America-hating ilk.

~ FreeThinke

Sam Huntington said...

But it's a predictably sneering view of those less fortunate than you. And a good example of how a lot of conservatives see those who are less successful than they are.

What an excellent example of duplicity. Shaw made a good counter argument up until her “sneeringly” condescending generalization. This is probably the result of not wanting anyone to have an opinion different from her own. If you can’t defeat the argument, attack the person —typical progressive.

Now I wonder, was Guthrie’s music merely a reflection of the social condition, or did he exacerbate despondency among the suffering?

Ducky's here said...

Freethiker likes show tunes with his drink.

Finntann said...

15 posts and nary an insult until Steve shows up.

Speaks volumes for your character.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Jack Whyte can have an opinion different from mine all he wants, dear Huntington. All I did was characterize his VIEW, not HIM, as sneering. Whyte made a generalization of all the poor people Woody Guthrie sang songs for, claiming they "felt sorry" for themselves.

Usually people who live in grinding poverty haven't the luxury of "feeling sorry for themselves." The emotion most felt by people who can't feed themselves or their children is fear.

It is my opinion that Whyte's COMMENT is heartless and demeaning.

You and he can condescendingly disagree with it as your little hearts desire.

Sam Huntington said...

Thank you for your benevolence, Shaw. The liberation granted is exhilarating.

Er, … I hope this doesn’t obligate me to vote for Obama in 2012 …

Bunkerville said...

On NPR no less his son was interviewed. According to him, he held no Marxist ideals. He did take any money from anybody to get by. His so called leftist songs were paid by the commie party.

Z said...

FT "The broad acceptance and celebration of the lowdown, badass, hardscrabble rough and tumble as what the REAL America is all about has been a big part of what's bringing us to ruin."

Be careful, FT. The left reads that as "another Republican who wants to kill the 'lowdown'...who would never give a penny to help anyone"....when Republican giving is higher than that of the Dems.

A silly surmisal but the typical reaction. Odd, isn't it. We have to CELEBRATE the destitute now...Republicans just want to help.
The homeless should not be treated as endangered species, they should be helped, fed, and taught to work.

In the old days, so many destitute American families would have died rather than take from others (my immigrant family had very hard times before their hard work paid in spades)....I wonder at today's difference.

BB-Idaho said...

I'm thinking Woody would be amused by the divisiveness
among the comments....'this land is your land-this land is my land'.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, the projects Jeffrey Weiss cited involving Guthrie were government projects; progressive, massive infrastructural projects. Yes, these projects involved massive government spending on lots of private companies, but the money came from the taxpayer.

That's why Guthrie wrote for them. It was Americans taking care of each other and their future.

If only conservatives today gave a half a rat's ass about that.

JMJ

FreeThinke said...

Z,

You make an excellent point. So did Sam.

I thought long and hard about pulling that post, which I admit to making in anger. I realize my feelings are probably insulting to SilverFiddles taste, but that was not why I said what I said, and I know he's got broad shoulders and is amazingly tolerant of opposing views, so I let it stand.

But I did NOT think of it from the point of view you bring up at all.

I am so resentful of the unprincipled power plays and hypocritical tactics of the left I often get carried away. It probably isn't wise, but at least it's honest.

The truth is -- and I think you might remember this from some of our past correspondence -- I happen to be unusually generous with what I have and have worked all my life -- admittedly in small ways -- to alleviate suffering in the lives of people I know who really need help.

The irnoy in the type of criticism you've mentioned that remarks such as mine are apt to engender from leftists is that what I despise and condemn is te left's detestable EXPLOITATION of serious issues doe political gain, I certainly don't despise those who've had the misfortune to be trapped in "Down and Dirty" circumstances.

I just the left's approach to ostensibly giving them a hand up that strikes me as offensively condescending and transparently insincere.

Almost by accident the new blog is turning into a place where examples of extreme cruelty from any and all factions worldwide are brought to light to be examined, analyzed, criticized and hopefully condemned -- even when these behaviors have come from what-is-supposed-to-be "our" side.

Since I am, admittedly, a wordy type, I guess many don't read everything I've said, so it's very easy to misconstrue the meaning.

I don't fear the antagonism of the left, because i don't respect the motives of their prime movers, but I do have some regard for the many sincere followers of Progressive Thought who have been taken in by the propaganda and honestly do mean well.

We're all walking a tightrope, aren't we?

~ FT

Silverfiddle said...

@ FreeThinke: If you like the smell, taste and feel of dust and dirt, grit, shit, piss, sweat, bad breath, unwashed bodies and desperation, fine.

That's what reality smells, tastes and feels like. God bless you if you've been shielded from it, but I've lived it.

As Mustang, a fellow veteran, observed, Woody Guthrie was a man of his times, and God bless him for his artistry.

Z said...

Right, Jersey, we just don't care...thanks for proving my point in the comment above.

FT, I know you give, I know you care very much. And I see your points. As I said above, leftist America seems to have engendered a respect and kind of worshipful awe for those who won't work and that attitude certainly doesn't help a society.
They take our feelings about how people should stand on their own and we need to help if they can't and if we can, and surmise that we hate the indigent because we don't want the government in that business.
SF once, i'm sure begrudgingly but to make a point a few months ago, mentioned charities he and his family are involved with....
I work with unwed moms who want to keep their babies and I donate to Wounded Warriors and Paralyzed Vets..and St Joseph Indian School..there are other charities but it feels horrid as I've not mentioned these things to anyone.. ever. But, I say it now because I'm so tired of us conservatives being read seemingly purposefully wrong, because we don't agree with the left.

IMagine ANYONE suggesting what Jersey did with THIS? "It was Americans taking care of each other and their future.
If only conservatives today gave a half a rat's ass about that."

unbelievable.

Guthrie sang about the common man..."a true slice of America"..he held up the American worker, he didn't aggrandize him...he was just honest.
We ALL WORK HARD, and we ALL get something from his songs, I think.

Always On Watch said...

I've never been a fan of Guthrie.

I guess that there's a limit as to how much of that sort of music and ideas expression that I can listen to without becoming morosely melancholy.

Always On Watch said...

FT said:

alleviate suffering in the lives of people I know who really need help

I wish that more people would take that step of personal charity!

A few people reached out to Mr. AOW and me -- not so much with money but with delivery of equipment that I didn't even know that I would be needing here at home. I could have bought the equipment, and I certainly did so as things went along -- and, once swept up with caregiving I didn't have the TIME to go searching. Furthermore, at the start, the "experts" (nursing home, hospitals, etc.) wouldn't tell me what I would be needing. Specific example: I had ZERO IDEA that I would need at least 6 sets of bed sheets for Mr. AOW's incontinence.

I'll be eternally grateful for those folks -- and for the ones who dropped off meals and snacks. And, of course, for The Merry Widow, a blogger who dropped everything and came up from Florida for 6 weeks to caregive (including potty training), shop, cook, clean -- the lot.

FreeThinke said...

I listed some pretty nasty aspects of life, and Kurt responded saying, "That's what reality smells, tastes and feels like. God bless you if you've been shielded from it, but I've lived it."

Our experiences have been very different to be sure, my friend, but you'd probably be surprised if you knew even half of what I've had to live with for protracted periods at various times.

What I strenuously object to, however, is the idea that "reality" is comprised solely of the gritty, grotty, grubby, gross, grim, grotesque and gruesome aspects of life, and that these should be lauded and celebrated.

Beauty may be found anywhere, I would never deny that. It has little or nothing to do with mere prettiness or decorousness, but there's a very disturbing implication in our culture today that the sophisticated, highly civilized, brilliantly complex, ennobling and endearing refinements we were taught to look up to and do our best to emulate in the not-so-distant past are in fact Symbols of Oppression, Racism and intolerable Snobbery, and a such should be disavowed, disrespected and discarded in favor of what? --- WOODY GUTHRIE?

Sorry. I don't buy it anymore than I can accept "Political Correctness," "Reverse Racism" and "White Guilt" as our just desserts for once having been so inappropriately high and mighty.

My grandparents were dirt poor immigrants who came here and MADE something of themselves in what-was-then The Land of Opportunity. That is no longer possible thanks to the efforts of Marxists and the misguided "do-gooders" who embraced the seething hatred, disrespect, moral rot, intellectual corruption and sheer viciousness embedded in Marxist thinking.

So, yes, Kurt, I managed to escape from the challenges of poverty and deprivation after losing everything for a time after having been "born with a silver spoon in my mouth." Fortunately, I never forgot the good things about the life I was born into, and with ingenuity, courage, determination -- and a lot of good luck -- I managed to regain and considerably enhance what had been lost.

Having experienced what-may-be-called the seamy side of life only worked to make me appreciate all the more the values and the tastes I'd been raised to embrace as my own.

At an advanced age I'm frankly having a ball. I admit, however, that it saddens and angers me that the kind of life I enjoy and the appreciation for things I truly love and understand is probably not going to be available to younger generations who now adore the gritty, grotty, frankly obscene products of a cynically manufactured, Pop-Fake-Folk Culture whose main objective seems to be to cut us off from our roots and render us malleable to Mind Control exerted through Mass Media.

With any luck I shall be dead in eight or ten years. I only hope I may hold out long enough to avoid being swept away by the Tidal Wave of Current Trends.

BLETCH!

~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Woody Guthrie was as genuine as they come, FT, and he didn't celebrate the seamy side of life, but rather, simply real life.

He wrote about people living and working, and his folk songs are just as legitimate as Erskine Caldwell's stories or American artists' paintings.

jez said...

Also, I don't think anyone is suggesting that classical music should be rejected in favour of Guthrie. Many of us find something to enjoy in each, although I've never much pursued Guthrie. But I've heard good things about some records made by Wilco and Billy Bragg working from old texts of his. (mermaid avenue)

FreeThinke said...

I probably love Billie Holliday for the same reasons you like Woody Guthrie, Kurt.

Billie was also a wreck of a human being who died much too young, because her life was out of control. She didn't have much of a voice, had a small vocal range, BUT there was a unique aura of sweet melancholy and tender vulnerability abut her that made her very special. Whether it was artistry or pure instinct didn't matter. She could touch your heart in ways you'd never forget.

She was in no way wholesome, high toned or edifying, but she brought out a protective instinct in me very close to the way I feel about Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Gustave Mahler, Francis Poulenc and Hugo Wolf.

The variety of things that can touch us deeply and add zest and meaning to life are strange, wonderful, incredibly varied, elusive and often at odds.

Who knows why you and I experience certain things in certain ways, and those same things either leave others cold -- or make them hostile?

The stuff that really matters is a great mystery.

~ FT

Silverfiddle said...

The stuff that really matters is a great mystery.

That is what makes art so great.

jez said...

It is an instructive experience to fall in love with an artist that most people don't appreciate. It should cure one instantly of the habit of writing off others' preferences.

Silverfiddle said...

Quite true, Jez!