Thursday, March 25, 2010
Jango Song Of The Day-Woody Guthrie
Song:This Land Is Your Land
Album:This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Vol. 1
Woody Guthrie's influence as a songwriter and social activist is much greater than anything he ever did as a performer because by the time folk music became popular in the 50s, poor health forced him to retire. This Land Is Your Land is probably his best known song. He was born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie July 14, 1912 in Okemah, OK. Yes, his parents named him after furure president Woodrow Wilson. His father was a businessman and local politician but his mother was institutionalized as she suffered from Huntington's Chorea, the hereditary disease that also killed Guthrie. As a teen, Guthrie worked odd jobs but also learned harmonica. In the 30s, Guthrie travelled looking for work like a lot of Okies. He wrote about these experiences in his book Bound For Glory. By the late 30s, he moved to Los Angeles and had his own radio show. He was also involved in the Communist movement though he never actually joined the party. When he lost the radio show, his good friend actor Will Geer took him to New York City and that's when Alan Lomax first recorded Guthrie for the Library Of Congress. He wrote This Land Is Your Land in 1940. Though today it is considered to be an unofficial US anthem, Guthrie wrote it in protest to what he thought was the insipid message of Irving Berlin's America The Beautiful. He moved to Washington state to participate in a documentary about the Grand Coulee Dam. But when that turned out unsatisfactry, he wanted to move back to New York to join the Almanac Singers. His wife didn't want to go and she stayed with the kids. That was the end of the marriage. Then Guthrie met Folkways Records owner Moses Asch and he was the first to record Guthrie in a recording studio. Those are the recordings on this CD. There are four volumes available individually or as a box set. These are digitally remastered. There are a lot of Woody Guthrie comps but this is the one you should get. By 1952, Guthrie had been diagnosed with Huntington's Chorea and this forced him to retire from performing. His health continued to deteriorate until his death on Oct. 3, 1967 at age 55. Of course Woody Guthrie's legacy continues with his son Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie. But his real legacy is much larger than that. Anyone who has ever picked up a guitar and wrote a politically charged song owes a debt of gratitude to Woody Guthrie. It's just sad that his health didn't allow him to experience that fully. Here's a video for This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.