Saturday, July 14, 2012


Woody Guthrie turns 100 years old today. It was through the folk songs of Dylan and Springsteen and Steve Earle that made me go back to the roots. I'm no expert on the man and his music, but definitely a good way to start would be to read the acclaimed biography by Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life, and Woody's own writings about his early travels throughout America, Bound For Glory. The latest news is that his unpublished novel is finally gonna see the light of day next year [link]. As for the music, there are tons of compilations out there. The recommended ones are the multiple-disc sets -- Library Of Congress Recordings, The Asch Recordings, and Some Folk, which I own. To commemorate this historic occasion, there's even a brand new set titled Woody At 100 [link]. He was one of the earliest pioneers of folk music, which in turn would influence the birth of the Americana genre, music embracing the magnificent and troubled spirit and history of the United States. He has a vast repertoire (perhaps the most prolific songwriter ever), much of which consisted of protest tunes; he always sang for that 99%. 

There are artists who have followed his musical footsteps, picking up from where he left off by putting fresh melodies to his unrecorded lyrics -- Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg & Wilco, and the most recent New Multitudes, by Jay Farrar, Anders Parker, Will Johnson & Yim Yames. Today there are few willing to challenge the status quo, the way Woody (and Pete Seeger) did back in his prime. The best example is Tom Morello, aka The Nightwatchman, who does it in a much more radical manner, but still carrying on Woody's legacy. Personally, the spirit and idea of protest is too far-fetched, and perhaps even looked down upon in my own establishment, but God bless someone like Tom who continues to fight for the downtrodden in his country and question authority in areas that need questioning.

Relevant links:

- Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration Website

- Official Woody Guthrie Website

- Guardian UK: Woody's Legacy

- Folk Alley's Woody Guthrie Centennial Mix

- NPR: At 100, Woody Guthrie Still Resonates 

- No Depression: What Woody Did

- LA Times: Woody At 100

- The Atlantic: Why Woody Guthrie Endures

- Washington Post: Woody Guthrie At 100: American Struggles & Dreams

- NY Times: Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Novel

- John Mellencamp's poetic tribute to Woody