Woody Guthrie: Songs and Art • Words and Wisdom
November 16, 2021 | Chronicle Books


A Note from the Author: Nora Guthrie

In 1992, I was given the unexpected task to create an archive of my father’s works. His papers, lyrics, diaries, essays, poems, letters, photos - basically decades of his creative output - were kept in our family home throughout my childhood. The process of creating the Woody Guthrie Archive became the road for me to get to know my father in ways I hadn’t even considered before.

For the next thirty years, people from all walks of life came to the Woody Guthrie archive to research all kinds of topics, from the dust bowl to dishwashing. From fascism to folk songs. It’s been an astounding journey of discovery for all. I’ve watched as books were published, excerpts were quoted, stories were investigated and new songs were sung. I’ve been both appreciative and wowed by the resurgence of interest.

I’ve also had the opportunity to do my own investigating. I’ve been moved, proud, angered, and at times, totally and utterly surprised. I’ve discovered and recorded hundreds of unknown lyrics with dozens of musicians (who knew he wrote songs about Joe DiMaggio or Ingrid Bergman?!), created local and national exhibits (a skill you learn to do on the job when the Smithsonian Institute asks you to curate a major exhibit), presented many public programs, produced concerts, basically taking every opportunity to share my discoveries. Now, in my seventies, it seems like the time is right to share some of the highlights of my discoveries in a book that can be enjoyed by all.

Bob Dylan once said, “You can listen to his songs and learn how to live”. That line sums up what my life has evidenced. As his daughter, this is how he taught me how to live. His songs, his art, his secret journal entries, his essays full of clear and sometimes explosive ideas, have been there all my life teaching me how to live. These are the ideals that I’ve been encouraged to strive for, to reach up to, to think about. These are the people he wanted me to know about, the history he wanted me to learn. The love he wanted to express.

So, now it’s time for me to put together my selections from all these teachings – thoughts on politics, on religion, on relationships, on children, and more. I want to give everyone a taste of the teachings that benefited me most, and which I think might benefit, or at least be interesting to, you. He strived to be an educated, man while remaining a devotedly unbounded spirit. He had a large dose of curiosity that was impossible to contain, continually exploding in all directions. Along the way, he discovered a powerful sense of purpose while retaining a wonderful sense of staying open to the unexpected. His serious and ferocious assault on fascism or racism never infringed on his witty humor, his ability to come up with a good line that could take an evil down. Now, when I go through the book, I swing from intellectual curiosity to childish tickles, from sadness and empathy to anger and determination. All emotions are represented, and all emotions are evoked.

This is what I’d like to share with everyone.

This is how I’d like my father to be remembered.

And this is what I love about him.




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