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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?

    Song & Life Timeline

    Bibliography

    Discography

    Filmography

    Woody Sez Quotes

 

Woody Guthrie's Biography

Page 4 of 10

WOODY SEZ...

"There's several ways of saying what's on your mind. And in states and counties where it ain't any too healthy to talk too loud, speak your mind, or even to vote like you want to, folks have found other ways of getting the word around.

One of the mainest ways is by singing. Drop the word 'folk' and just call it real old honest to god American singing. No matter who makes it up, no matter who sings it and who don't, if it talks the lingo of the people, it's a cinch to catch on, and will be sung here and yonder for a long time after you've cashed in your chips.

If the fight gets hot, the songs get hotter. If the going gets tough, the songs get tougher."
- Source: Big Guns (by the Almanac Singers) Pastures of Plenty, pg. 78

LISTEN TO WOODY

Tom Joad

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Recording taken from-
Dust Bowl Ballads

From left: Woody, Millard Lampell, Bess Lomax, Pete Seeger, Arthur Stern, and Sis Cunningham. The Almanac Singers in 1941.

NEW YORK TOWN (1940-1941)
New York City, New York

Never comfortable with success, or being in one place for too long, Woody headed east for New York City, arriving in 1940. He was quickly embraced for his Steinbeckian homespun wisdom and musical "authenticity" by leftist organizations, artists, writers, musicians, and progressive intellectuals. That same year, folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Woody in a series of conversations and songs for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Woody also recorded “Dust Bowl Ballads” for RCA Victor, his first album of original songs, and throughout the 1940s he continued to record hundreds of discs for Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records. The recordings from this early period continue to be touchstones for folk music singer-songwriters everywhere.

In New York City, Lead Belly, Cisco Houston, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Will Geer, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Josh White, Millard Lampell, Bess Hawes, Sis Cunningham, among others, all became Woody's close friends and musical collaborators. Forming a loosely knit folk group called The Almanac Singers, they took up social causes such as union organizing, anti-Fascism, strengthening the Communist Party, peace, and generally fighting for the things they believed in the best way they could: through songs of political protest and activism. Woody became one of the prominent songwriters for the Almanac Singers.

The Almanacs helped to establish folk music as a viable commercial genre within the popular music industry. A decade later, original members of the Almanacs would re-form as the Weavers, the most commercially successful and influential folk music group of the early 1950s. It was through their tremendous popularity that Woody’s songs would become known to the larger public.

With increasing popularity, prosperity and critical success from public performances, recordings, and even his own radio show, Woody could afford to bring his struggling family to New York to enjoy his new found success.

READ LYRICS FROM THIS TIME:

 

Talkin' Subway Blues

This Land Is Your Land

Tom Joad

Union Maid

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