Guthrie: A Life
by Joe Klein
at the Woody Guthrie Store
In the late
'70's, Marjorie Guthrie, Woody's wife, started thinking that the
time had come for someone to write Woody's story. She found
a young, eager journalist willing to take on the task, Joe Klein.
She must have known that it should be someone young and in good
health because the task of organizing Woody's life into a coherent
work would prove to be a merciless job! She must have also
had a sense of her own time running out and felt the responsibility
to reveal what she knew of the man, her intimate recollections and
knowledge of his vast body of work. After all she had accompanied
him on his personal and artistic journey for the second half of
his life, and was in touch with many of the remaining friends and
family from the first half.
Marjorie gave Joe unconditional access to all of Woody's writings,
as well as valuable contacts for interviews. It was the only
time where she herself was interviewed at length for historical
purposes. Many of the stories she held within her memory for
decades were taped through hours of conversation.
Joe Klein's book was the only officially authorized biography on
Woody ever written. (Actually, it was the only biography
written!) Joe Klein struggled through the material for over
a year, often getting pulled into the tragic, emotional turbulence
of Woody's life, and had to be rescued occasionally by his wife
and Marjorie. Joe later acknowledged that he almost lost it!
Reading Woody Guthrie: A Life you can understand why.
Woody's personal life is a series of deeply forged zig-zags, geographically
and emotionally. American history and political movements
weave in and out of his often difficult relationships with friends
Woody latched onto music early on. It was the only stone that
he could remain standing on which gave him the conscious and continuing
sense of purpose in a difficult world that kept changing the rules. Writing about all the changes happening around him, and to him,
was his constant.
Joe Klein labored hard to trace the often invisible tracks of the
man who had warned us, "I come with the dust and I go with
the wind...". It remains the singular, most complete
research work ever done on Woody Guthrie. Marjorie Guthrie
died two years after it's publication.
joined The New Yorker in December, 1996, as a Washington
correspondent; he writes the "Letter from Washington"
column. Mr. Klein is based in New York, but works out of both
Mr. Klein came to The
New Yorker from Newsweek, where he served for the
past four years as a political reporter and columnist. He
joined Newsweek during the Presidential race of May, 1992,
and his column, "Public Lives," addressed both national
and international affairs. In 1994, he received a National
Headliner Award for "Public Lives." His Newsweek reporting also helped the magazine earn a National Magazine Award
for Best Single-Topic Issue (on Bill Clinton's 1992 victory). Joe Klein was also a consultant for CBS from 1992 to 1996.
As "Anonymous," Mr. Klein is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Primary
Colors, which was inspired by the 1992 Presidential race. Primary Colors spent twenty-five weeks on the Times hardcover bestseller list--nine of them at the number one spot--following
its publication in January of 1996. The paperback edition
of the book, published in the fall of 1996, was also a national
From 1987 to 1992, Mr.
Klein was a political columnist at New York, where he won
a number of awards including the Peter Khiss Award, which honors
reporting on New York City government and public affairs, for a
series on the 1989 mayoral campaign.
he has written articles and book reviews for The New Republic,
the Times, the Washington Post, Life, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He is also
the author Payback: Five Marines After Vietnam (1984).
Joe Klein began his journalism
career as a reporter with the Essex County Newspapers in Massachusetts
in 1969. In 1972 he worked as a reporter for WGBH-TV in Boston,
and from 1972 to 1974 he was a news editor at The Real Paper,
also in Boston. From 1975 to 1980 he was a contributing editor
for Rolling Stone, serving also as its Washington bureau
chief from 1975 to 1977.
Mr. Klein graduated
from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in American civilization.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former
Guggenheim fellow. He lives with his wife and two children
in Westchester County, New York, and he is also the father of two