A selection of excerpted quotations and prose written by Woody Guthrie

Watch the kids. Do like they do. Act like they act. Yell like they yell. Dance the ways you see them dance. Sing like they sing. Work and rest the way the kids do. You'll be healthier. You'll feel weathier. You'll talk wiser. You'll go higher, do better, and live longer here amongst us if you'll just only jump in here and swim around in these kids sings and do like the kids do. I don't want the kids to be grownup. I want to see the grown folks be kids.

I love a good man outside the law, just as much as I hate a bad man inside the law.

Civilization is spread more by singing than anything else, because whole big bunches can sing a particular song where not every man can join in on the same conversation. A song ain’t nothing but a conversation fixed up to where you can talk it over and over without getting tired of it. And it’s this repeating the idea over and over that makes it take a hold. If the conversation is about good crops, or bad, good politics or bad, good news or bad, good anything else or bad, the best way to circulate it amongst the people is by way of singing it.

The politicians don’t pay enough attention to singing. They pay attention to their own way of singing, but they don’t listen to the songs of the people enough; for this reason they don’t listen to the people enough, don’t know what the people think, what the people want, what the people need, hat the people do, where the people come from , where the people go, and what they are toughing out, and what they wish and hope for.

Any event which takes away the lives of human beings, I try to write a song about what caused it to happen and how we can all try to keep such a thing from happening again.


I hate a song that makes you think you are 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 too old or too young or too fat or too slim. Too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I'm out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.

I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own songs and to sing the kind that knock you down farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think you've not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.

Available on the Woody Guthrie poster

There's a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Or it takes you back down the road somebody else has come and you can look out across the world from the hill they are standing on.

Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days - and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shape in my mind - If it is joy it is of such a treasured sort and such a fine make that the thought of its passing is near to pain - and you can see how pain has paid you a profit in its own strange way - and the joy of the sadness is like a raindrop falling in the sun

Music is on the radio - I notice that as I listen, I think of my mistakes, ill words, wasted time, and the next note I think of who I love and who I hate and the success I've had at both and of my tomorrow's chances. And I feel like a singing god riding on a cloud snapping my fingers and ruling a universe

Music is a tone of voice, the sound life uses to keep the living alive. They call us back many times a day from the brinks of torture - the holes of superstition. There never was a sound that was not music - there's 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.

Available on Note of Hope CD, as read by Pete Seeger.


This is our country here as far as you can see no matter which way you walk or
No matter what spot of it you stand on
And when you have crossed her as many times as I have you will see as many ugly things about her as pretty things
You will hear whole gangs of travelers and settlers arguing about her.
What she is, how she come to be, what you are supposed to do here. and you will hear some argue at you
That she is so beautiful you are supposed to spend your life just feeling her pretty parts,
Sucking in her sweetest breezes and tasting her fairest odors, looking at her brightest colored scenes,
And I would say that gang has the wrong notion.
And there are some bunches that tell you she is all ugly and all dirty, that there is nothing good about her, nothing free, nothing clean, that she is all slums, shacks, rot, filth, stink, and bad odors, loud words of bitter flavors,
Well, this herd is big and I heard them often and I heard them loud, but I come to think that they too was just as wrong as the first outfit,
Because I seen the pretty and I seen the ugly and it was because I knew the pretty part that I wanted to change the ugly part, Because I hated the dirty part that I knew how to feel the love for the cleaner part,
I looked in a million of her faces and eyes, and I told myself there was a look on that face that was good, if I could see it there, in back of all of the shades and shadows of fear and doubt and ignorance and tangles of debts and worries,
And I guess it is these things that make our country look all lopsided to some of us, lopped over onto the good and easy side or over onto the bad and the hard side,
I know that the people that run our desks and offices got so full of the desire to grab enough money to run away and hide on, that they let this thought run them, instead of the bigger plan, well, this has always been a hard word to say, but
It could very truly be that our office people are doing the best they know how to do,
But we had ought to teach ourselves better and higher than this before we run ourselves and put ourselves into our offices.

"Life's pretty tough . . . you're lucky if you live through it." - WWG


I took a bath this morning in six war speeches, and a sprinkle of peace. Looks like ever body is declaring war against the forces of force. That's what you get for building up a big war machine. It scares your neighbors into jumping on you, and then of course they them selves have to use force, so you are against their force, and they're aginst yours. Look like the ring has been drawed and the marbles are all in. The millionaires has throwed their silk hats and our last set of drawers in the ring. The fuse is lit and the cannon is set, and somebody is in for a frailin. I would like to see every single soldier on every single side, just take off your helmet, unbuckle your kit, lay down your rifle, and set down at the side of some shady lane, and say, nope, I aint a gonna kill nobody. Plenty of rich folks wants to fight. Give them the guns.

From WOODY SEZ, a collection of articles written by Woody for the PEOPLE'S WORLD.