Over the decades, Nora Guthrie at the helm of Woody Guthrie Publications has worked on a variety of special projects and releases. Here are some of the highlights over the years.
People Are The Song Exhibit | David Amram: This Land CD | My Name Is New York Book & 3-CD Set | Woody Guthrie's Wardy Forty | Woody at 100! Woody's centennial celebrations! | Holy Ground: Woody Guthrie's Yiddish Connection - The Klezmatics | Nashville Sings Woody | This Land Is Your Land SITES Exhibit | Mermaid Avenue Sessions | Hard Travelin': Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Concert
The author of more than three thousand folk songs, Woody Guthrie (1912–1967) is one of the most influential songwriters and recording artists in American history. He is an icon of the Depression era and wrote the world’s most famous protest song, “This Land Is Your Land.” But he was not only a songwriter, and his subject matter extended well beyond labor politics. The full corpus of his creativity—including lyrics, poetry, artwork, and largely unpublished prose writings—encompassed topics such as the environment, love, sex, spirituality, family, and racial justice. Guthrie created a personal philosophy that has impacted generations of Americans and inspired musician-activists from Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen to Ani DiFranco and Chuck D. As Bob Dylan noted of Guthrie, “You could listen to his songs and actually learn how to live.”
Curated in collaboration with the Woody Guthrie Center, Woody Guthrie Publications, and music historian Bob Santelli, Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song tells the story of the great American troubadour and writer in his own words and by his own hand through an extraordinary selection of musical instruments, handwritten lyrics, manuscripts, photographs, books, art, and audiovisual media, assembled from the preeminent holdings of the Woody Guthrie Archive and several private collections. The show traces Guthrie’s life and career through his artistic response to several interrelated themes: place, politics, family, love, and spirituality. Running through these themes is an emphasis on Guthrie’s connection to “people”: to specific people in his life, historical figures of his era, and the anonymous workers, soldiers, and immigrants whose stories appear in so much of his music. Songs like “My Thirty Thousand,” “Deportee,” “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard,” and “Union Maid” express Guthrie’s outrage at the racial and labor injustices felt by his fellow Americans, while lyrics to “Ingrid Bergman” and “Joe DiMaggio” speak to his interest in prominent figures of the 1940s and the compelling stories of their lives. Time and again this exhibition captures Guthrie’s powers as a raconteur for the people—he had an uncanny ability to distill a news story or the account of someone’s life into a topical ballad or protest song. As he explains in a notebook kept in 1942, “there is no real trick of creating words to set to music once you realize that the word is the music and the people are the song.”
This exhibition was presented by Woody Guthrie Publications and the Woody Guthrie Center in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum.
Released: February 23, 2015
Composed and Conducted by David Amram
Recorded Friday, September 21, 2012 and Saturday, September 22, 2012 - at Boettcher Concert Hall, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver, Colorado, THIS LAND was composed and conducted by David Amram. This piece was commissioned by the Guthrie Family.
Woody Guthrie lived in New York City from 1940-1967 and although he continued to ramble, New York was the city he called home, and always returned to. With friends Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Cisco Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and others, he was at the hub of a new movement – introducing and popularizing rural, roots, topical, and protest music to modern urban audiences. "This Land Is Your Land" was written at a small boarding house on 43rd Street. His autobiography "Bound For Glory" and many of his most popular songs were written in various locations around town; "Jesus Christ", "Tom Joad", "Vigilante Man", and "Riding In My Car" are among the 600 songs he composed here.
Now, for the first time, you'll actually be able to hear these stories told by those who knew him best, in many different ways and through various encounters and circumstances; music partners Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Sonny Terry, and Bess Lomax Hawes, Woody's first wife Mary Guthrie, Woody's merchant marine buddy Jimmy Longhi, Bob Dylan, Woody's second wife Marjorie Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Nora Guthrie and many others share their memories with you first-hand. With this new audio tour, we invite you to walk the streets, ride the buses and subways, or sit down and relax on some of the stoops, park benches, or beaches where Woody Guthrie did – always strumming away on his guitar, always working on a new song.
Written and Narrated by Nora Guthrie. GRAMMY Nominated for Best American Roots Song, "New York Trains"!
Released on November 11, 2013, this book by photographer Phillip Buehler, reveals a largely unknown slice of American icon and folk music legend Woody Guthrie’s life. Through never-before-published letters, historic and family photographs, rare personal interviews, and new photographs by Buehler, Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty brings into view the five years the singer, songwriter, and activist spent as a patient at Greystone Park State Hospital in Morris Plains, NJ. Afflicted with Huntington’s disease (HD), Guthrie lived the last 15 years of his life in hospitals, suffering from this degenerative neurological disorder. One of these hospitals was Greystone Park, where he was a patient from 1956 through 1961. He lived in Ward 40 and called it “Wardy Forty.” It was here that 19-year-old Bob Dylan met his idol and the torch was symbolically passed to a new generation of folk singer.
From California to the New York Island, this year-long celebration included everything from star-studded concerts, exhibits, educational conferences, public programs, new releases from Woody Guthrie Publications, the Woody Guthrie Archive, grassroots events, and much, much more. The celebrations began in Tulsa, OK, then headed over to Pampa, TX, over to Austin, TX for the major SXSW convention, then on to Los Angeles, CA, and culminated in an all-star concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Wonder Wheel album released: July 25, 2006 | Happy Joyous Hanuka CD released: September 5, 2006
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by The Klezmatics
In this 2-CD project, The Klezmatics offer up new performances of previously unknown songs, a lively dialogue between artists who fervently agree about social justice, peace, and the spiritual power of music to unite, bind to a cause, and transcend any borders, musical or otherwise. The story is a glorious tale of happenstance and discovery, populated by luminaries from different worlds and different eras. These Coney Island-wrought lyrics add a less-known urban dimension to a man seen as the avatar of dust-bowl ballads.
From January 8th to February 8th, 2003, Nashville was swinging with the sounds and legacy of Woody Guthrie honoring him with a variety of concerts, exhibits, and school programs.
To kick off the month, January 8th was the opening reception followed by the screening of "Bound For Glory", Hal Ashby's Academy Award-winning film starring David Carradine. Showing at the Belcourt Theatre, this film was also the start of a month long film series dedicated to Woody Guthrie's life and legacy. Monday, January 15th the Belcourt Theatre screened "Hard Travelin'" Arlo Guthrie's trace of his father's life back to Oklahoma. January 22nd "Roll on Columbia" screened at the Belcourt. "Roll On Columbia" details the story of how Woody was hired in 1941, by the Bonneville Dam Administration to write songs for the Bonneville Dam Project. January 29th the Belcourt showed "Man in the Sand" Billy Bragg's documentary on the process of creating the Mermaid Avenue CD. February 2nd the Belcourt showed "A Vision Shared", concluding the month-long film series. Prior to the screening of "A Vision Shared", there were live performances by Old Crow Medicine Show, Mary Gauthier, and Beth Nielsen-Chapman. The evening was emceed by Michael Kleff, German world music journalist.
Closing the unprecedented month-long celebration of Woody Guthrie's life and music, Nashville got together on February 5th at the Ryman Auditorium to sing, shout, and have a great time, all to benefit the Woody Guthrie Foundation. Our all-star concert featured performances by; Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, Janis Ian, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, James Talley, Slaid Cleaves, Jimmy LaFave, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Ellis Paul, Peter Rowan, Tim O'Brien, Alison Brown, Pat Flynn, Eliza Gilkyson, Corey Harris, Rob Wasserman, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Wenzel, Blackfire, and DJ Logic. Michael Parrish, of the Chicago Tribune, stated, "the Ryman tribute was a testimony both to the treasures contained in Guthrie's portfolio and to the ongoing relevance of his songs.
As well as the concert and film festival, Nashville citizens and tourists alike could get rare glimpses into the artistic side of Woody Guthrie with three exhibitions curated by the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives and displayed during the celebration at Bongo Java coffee houses. Two of the Bongo Java exhibits featured Woody's drawings and the exhibit at Fido's features stunning photographs that open up an often unknown side of Woody Guthrie's history. Among the artwork shown were Woody's sketches he did for his autobiography, "Bound For Glory", and a series of cartoons called "This Is The Hand", a brilliant commentary on workers and bosses and the need for unions. The third exhibit displayed twenty rare photographs of Woody dated from 1939-1954, including some that had never been released.
Also, on February 4th, Nora Guthrie emceed the program "I've Sung This Song", presented by NARAS. Nora showed the film "All or None", segments of rare footage supplied by the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives. Nora got comfortable on the carpeted stage, sat down, and told her father's tales in between the segments. In the audience was Mary-Jo Edgmon (Woody's sister) and Tiny Robinson (Leadbelly's niece). As the film footage ended, the audience got a rare site, watching Woody's close family share intimate and often humorous anecdotes about their days with Woody's. The day before, Kathy Jakobsen and Nora Guthrie spoke and signed books at the David Kidd Book Store. The event was a huge success.
Last, but certainly not least, singer/songwriter David Massengill filled in for Dave Marsh (who was snowed-in in New York) as moderator for the panel "Can You Get From The Dust Bowl To Music Row". The panelists included singer Nanci Griffith, historian Robert K. Oermann, and Nashville Scene music editor Bill Friskics-Warren. Jimmy LaFave opened the discussion with his version of "Oklahoma Hills", Sarah Lee and Johnny Irion follow with their rendition of "Philadelphia Lawyer", and Nanci Griffith jumped in with her "Troubled Fields". This panel discussion combined the end of the "Nashville Sings Woody" month-long celebration with the beginning of the annual "Folk Alliance Conference."
In collaboration with SITES (Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition Series)
"This Land is Your Land" explored the life and work of poet, singer, artist, and humorist, Woody Guthrie. Woody's deep empathy for the common man infused his music with purpose and sparked a life-long dedication to social activism. Woody was a traveling folklorist, collecting cowboy songs, mountain ballads, religious music, blues, and work chants and then blending these styles into more than 3,000 original songs, each revealing an aspect of the American soul.
The exhibition spans Woody's life from his birth in 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, to his move to New York City in 1940; it follows his extensive travels throughout the land up until his death in 1967, culminating reflectively on the lasting influence that his life and music has had upon American musical culture. Woody's original notebooks, diaries, song lyrics and photos are viewed throughout to illustrate his prolific writing and often unconventional lifestyle. An abundance of original artwork, never before exhibited, adds to our understanding of his artistry. Memorabilia contributed by Guthrie family members includes some of Woodys own instruments and personal effects. In addition, carefully located audio stations within the exhibition aids in contextualizing the environment further highlighting Woody's artistic process through recorded performances of his own songs along with excerpts of songs that helped to form his creative vision. Thanks to all of those who were able to see the exhibit and learn more about Woody Guthrie.
Woody's times were ripe for songs of the people. His prodigious output spanned around 20 years, during which he churned out poems, two novels, and hundreds of letters, essays, and newspaper columns, in addition to his music. He drew and painted prolifically and recorded hundreds of songs. He sang about love, war, children at play, natural disasters, unionism, and fascism. Literary critics have called him the Walt Whitman of the 20th century—others say he was the working man's James Joyce. Woody Guthrie's "ballads" echo in the music of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many of today's emerging singer/songwriters. As folk artist and diarist, his immense oeuvre of drawings and autobiographical musings illustrate the world as he saw it.
For the first time, Guthrie's personal archive of drawings, song lyrics, notebooks, manuscripts, diaries, and photographs were made available to the public. The Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Nora Guthrie, created an exhibition that draws from rarely seen objects, illustrations, film footage, and recorded performances to reveal a complex man who was at once poet, musician, protester, idealist, itinerant hobo, and folk legend.
*This Land Is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie toured around the U.S. from 1999-2002.
We first became aware of Englishman Billy Bragg in 1992 when he was invited to perform at New York City's "Summerstage" birthday celebration for Woody. Billy had a special comraderie with all the performers. Although he had come out of a punk rock background, he could sing along with the country western singers, the folkies and just about everyone else that appeared in the show. When he accompanied rappers Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy on "Vigilante Man", we were blown away. He seemed open to anything and everything. His wry sense of humor, reminiscent of Woody's, also caught our attention immediately.
Years later, after hearing more about his own work, we decided he would be the perfect candidate to set new music to some of Woody's unknown lyrics that we had found in the archives. These lyrics had never been recorded, and there was no record of any music written. We tried to select lyrics that most people wouldn't imagine that the "Dust Bowl Balladeer" would have written: songs about New York City streets, songs about film star idols, songs about drinking, loving, dying and even songs about spaceships! Songs that would expand Woody's "historical" personae and give him a vehicle that, as a 20th century songwriter, was as yet unexplored.
After a few days looking through the archives Billy took on the project and invited roots-rockers Wilco to collaborate with him. For a year lyrics and demos were sent back and forth to London, Billy's home town, until an initial selection of songs was made. Recordings began in Chicago, Wilco's home town, and then in Dublin, Ireland where fiddler Eliza Carthy and bluesman Corey Harris came to add their talents. Natalie Merchant recorded some additional tunes with Billy afterwards in Boston.
"Mermaid Avenue" was released in June, 1998. The reviews, the performances, the spirit of it all was wild and cathartic. Billy Bragg and Wilco brought Woody back to life with a sound that raised the roofs of the old barns. Just what Woody would have done.
VOLUME II: In this second volume of material, Billy Bragg and Wilco explore Woody's previously unheard lyrics, taking us in new and ever more revealing directions. "My Flying Saucer" and "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again" place Woody smack dab in Coney Island in the late 40's. Perhaps watching the lit skies above the beach one night, or overhearing the local conversation while lingering on a street corner, Woody remains true to his journalistic approach. Yet, all the while twisting the information into his own voice and retelling it with his own message.
Some darker themes are also explored. With "Meanest Man", Woody reveals an anger held in check by the goodness he feels in the people around him and "Feed of Man" is an outrage against greed and professed righteousness. Billy, as always, takes on the fascists in "All you Fascists" (watch out, guys!) and Wilco always seem to hone in on the beauty of Woody's love songs. "Remember the Mountain Bed" evokes such sensual images it's no wonder it wasn't recorded by Woody himself who was often accused of pornography because his lyrics were so expressly, and exquisitely clear!
Some of these tunes came out of the original Dublin sessions recorded in 1998. But, following their work on Mermaid Avenue I, Wilco decided to come back to the Archives and search around some more. They went back to Chicago to record "Secret of the Sea", the single from the album, among others, adding the new musical direction to their previous style.
Oh, by the way. Who's the cat? That's actually a photo taken by Woody of a neighborhood friend. If you look over his shoulder, the apartment next to the corner store is where the Guthrie's lived on the first floor. The corner store had a soda fountain and tables where Woody often sat with a cup of coffee, and wrote while checking out the street scene from the plate glass window. Perhaps that's where he heard someone across the street yell, "Hey, Joe DiMaggio's done it again!"
THE COMPLETE SESSIONS: Released April 21, 2012 - this Deluxe Edition includes Volume's I & II, plus 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the Mermaid Avenue sessions; director Kim Hopkins’ 1999 film Man in the Sand, which documents those sessions; and a 48-page booklet with new liner notes by Nora Guthrie, full lyrics, archival photographs, and facsimiles of lyric sheets and sketches by Woody Guthrie.
In September, 1996, Nora Guthrie and the Woody Guthrie Archive collaborated with the Robert Santelli and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, presenting a week long celebration of Woody Guthrie's music, culminating with an all-star concert at Severence Hall. The focus of the ten-day event, Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin', explored and illuminated Guthrie's influence on folk and rock music. It was the first major conference on Woody Guthrie. The symposium took place on the campus of Case Western Reserve University with the support of the American Studies department. Throughout the week a series of films and lectures were presented, even a Woody Guthrie photo exhibition was presented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.
Two major concerts were held with performers including Dan Bern, Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Arlo Guthrie, Indigo Girls, Jorma Kaukonen, Jimmy LaFave, Country Joe McDonald, Paul Metsa, Ellis Paul, David Pirner, Tim Robbins, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and Syd Straw. The celebration initiated the Rock Hall's "Legends of Rock and Roll" series under the direction of Robert Santelli. A limited number of items and memorabilia created especially for this event are available for purchase.