At 100, Woody Guthrie More Relevant Than Ever

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Terry Allan Hall

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Apr 21, 2010
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The Republic O' Tejas
At 100, Woody Guthrie More Relevant Than Ever
by Jessica Pieklo
July 13, 2012
11:55 pm

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of American icon Woody Guthrie. I grew up on Guthrie’s music, though at the time I had no idea that “This Land Is Your Land” was written as a protest song. Nor could I have any sense that the centennial of his birth would be marked by the same urgent need for reform and the same defiant protest that made Guthrie a legend.

Guthrie’s story drips with Americana. Born and raised in Oklahoma Guthrie chronicled the poverty and despair that would define the early populist uprisings. His earliest writings were of tales of dustbowl refugees of the 1930s depression. And like many of our folk heroes, Guthrie’s protest was grounded in a real patriotism and love of his country–of a sense that things had gone horribly wrong for the common folk thanks to the misdeeds of a privileged few. Guthrie describes this in his 1938 “I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore”:

My brothers and sisters are traveling on this road

A hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod

Rich man took my home and drove me from my door

And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore

Guthrie wrote far more songs than he recorded, and like Bob Dylan after him, Guthrie’s songs seem almost timeless yet quintessentially American. Like thousands of other Americans, Guthrie left the dusty plains and headed west, eventually securing his spot at a songwriter and activists supporting farmworkers and union movements. Guthrie always fought for and defended the poor and the powerless, and that legacy is perhaps the most resonant today.

100 years later and in the throws of a foreclosure crisis, record and chronic unemployment, and a governing elite that seems less and less tuned in to the needs of its constituency, we could use another Woody Guthrie.
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