Woody Guthrie. 1943

Woody Guthrie. 1943

Woody Guthrie, photographed in 1943, aged 32.

From a TPM post on the death of Pete Seeger …

Guthrie, a complicated and tragic figure, was one of those folk icons who genuinely appeared to rise up out of the earth from nowhere, born into a sort of boomtown prosperity which was soon shattered by financial disaster, maternal loss, insanity and profound poverty. Seeger was blessed with good genes (his father lived to 92, he to 94), born to a Harvard-educated academic. They were completely different sorts of people and yet connected up in this channel of folk music and radicalism.

He is best known as the writer of “This Land is Your Land” (1940), written as a counter national anthem, fueled by disgust with what he perceived as a complacency and unrealism of “God Bless America”, then a staple of American radio.

In his mid-30s, Guthrie began to show the signs of what would later be diagnosed as Huntington’s Disease, a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disorder. He died, aged 55, in 1967.

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  1. Woodie was one of the first in our labor struggle. He fought as a populist through music. It was sad that he died so young from Parkinson’s disease, which is understood by few people, because it is rare. He is blessed by his children, still going strong. Old video, easily obtained, of Woody. I am no expert,but I know he is the real deal when it comes to progressive politics.


    And Neil Young’s take on it, precious in its own way

  2. Wouldn’t all of our laptops be better with that sticker on it?

  3. His contribution to our democratic culture is immeasurable.

  4. My son’s college history professor showed the class a Crash Course History video by John Green (1). My son laughed when he saw the “This Machine Kills Fascists” sticker on Green’s computer.

    His professor asked what was funny. My son told him that it was a reference to Woody Guthrie’s guitar. At first, the professor didn’t believe him, but my son showed him a picture of Guthrie with the famous guitar. The professor thanked my son for teaching him something that day.

    My son got an “A” for class participation.

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch v=6bMq9Ek6jnA&index=37&list=PL8dPuuaLjXtMwmepBjTSG593eG7ObzO7s
  5. Woody was a lot less of a pacifist than Pete Seeger–see the label on his guitar. On a documentary about him someone–it may have been Lee Hayes, later of the Weavers–related that when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Woody showed up at the door and said, “Well, I guess we won’t be singing any more peace songs.”

    I heard an interview with his daughter who said that she and Arlo went to a progressive school in New York City after the war. On the first day of school, all of the kids got up and sang “This Land is Your Land,” which they seem to have done every morning. Except that Woody’s kids didn’t know the song very well (maybe at all); they never sang it at home.

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