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WOODY GUTHRIE'S BIOGRAPHY

1912 - Childhood

1931 - The Great Dust Bowl

1937 - KFVD Radio Years

1940 - New York Town

1941 - Columbia River

1942 - World War II

1946 - Coney Island

1954 - The Hospital Years

I Ain't Dead Yet

Where's Woody Now?

New Songs from the Woody Guthrie Archive


Bibliography

Discography

Filmography

Song Timeline

Life & Song Timeline

Woody Sez


 

Woody Guthrie's Biography

Page 3 of 10

WOODY SEZ...

"I hate a song that makes you think that you're not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that....songs that run you down or songs that poke fun of you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood."

Written by Woody Guthrie on December 3rd, 1944 for a WNEW radio show, 1944. Available on the Woody Guthrie Poster.

READ LYRICS FROM THIS TIME:

Do Re Mi

Pretty Boy Floyd

Vigilante Man

Woody's and Lefty Lou’s Theme Song

Poster announcing Woody Guthrie performance at Towne Forum, Los Angeles, 1941. Photo by Seema Weatherwax.

KFVD RADIO YEARS (1937–1940)
Los Angeles, California

By the time he arrived in California in 1937, Woody had experienced intense scorn, hatred, and even physical antagonism from resident Californians, who opposed the massive migration of the so-called “Okie” outsiders.

In Los Angeles Woody landed a job on KFVD radio, singing “old-time” traditional songs as well as some original songs. Together with his singing partner Maxine Crissman, aka “Lefty Lou,” Woody began to attract widespread public attention, particularly from the thousands of relocated Okies gathered in migrant camps. Living in makeshift cardboard and tin shelters, Woody’s program provided entertainment and a nostalgic sense of the “home” life they’d left behind; despite their desperate circumstances, it was a respite from the harsh realities of migrant life.

The local radio airwaves also provided Woody a forum from which he developed his talent for controversial social commentary and criticism. On topics ranging from corrupt politicians, lawyers, and businessmen to praising the compassionate and humanist principles of Jesus Christ, the outlaw hero Pretty Boy Floyd, and the union organizers that were fighting for the rights of migrant workers in California’s agricultural communities, Woody proved himself a hard-hitting advocate for truth, fairness, and justice.

Woody strongly identified with his audience and adapted to an “outsider” status, along with them. This role would become an essential element of his political and social positioning, gradually working its way into his songwriting; “I Ain't Got No Home”, “Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad”, “Talking Dust Bowl Blues”, “Tom Joad” and “Hard Travelin'”; all reflect his desire to give voice to those who had been disenfranchised.

 

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