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Desert Dancer Woody at 100 (95* d) RE: Woody at 100 24 Nov 13


It's post-anniversary, but certainly inspired by it: the New York TImes has a lovely long Travel section article about a summer road trip that ended up being shaped by Woody's songs and ideas. Check it out.

In Search of Woody Guthrie's America, by Freda Moon, November 22, 2013

Here's the opening of the article, as a sample:
The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite spots in this world, and I'm one walker that's stood way up and looked way down acrost aplenty of pretty sights in all their veiled and nakedest seasons. The Pacific Northwest has got mineral mountains. It's got chemical deserts. It's got rough run canyons. It's got sawblade snowcaps. It's got ridges of nine kinds of brown, hills out of six colors of green, ridges five shades of shadows, and stickers the eight tones of hell.
Columbia River Songbook


The folk singer Woody Guthrie was prone to hyperbole. Whatever caught his attention, even briefly, became in his rendering the biggest, the best, the most, the greatest. His lyrics suggested a constant state of wonder, as if he saw every public utility project, rapid-churned river, dive bar or struggling worker through the eyes of a voracious, world-hungry child. An avowed everyman and insatiable traveler, Guthrie prided himself on knowing the country "from California, to the New York Island" by foot, freight train and hitchhiker's thumb.

Guthrie's America is vast and varied. It is the rolling hills of Oklahoma, where he was born just over a century ago, and the plains of the Texas Panhandle, to which he fled when hard times hit his hometown, Okemah; it is the Columbia River of the Pacific Northwest and the not-so-glittering Los Angeles of the 1930s; and it is the multicultural fun house of Coney Island, where Guthrie lived his last lucid, productive years before dying of Huntington's disease in 1967.

In some 3,000 songs, many written on the road, about the places he lived or passed through in his "hard travelin' " days, Guthrie expressed the spectrum of American experience in a way few other writers have. As he "roamed and rambled," he captured something essential in places where he spent even a fleeting amount of time.

I first heard Guthrie's songs as a child in Northern California in the 1980s. Surrounded by the redwood forests of "This Land Is Your Land," my classmates and I sang his anthem in grammar school. But it wasn't until later, when I read stories about Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, that I understood the breadth of his influence on American song and on its intersection with politics and counterculture.

The opening of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla., this past spring, the release of a never-before-published Guthrie novel, "House of Earth," last February, and the centennial celebration of his birth last year signal that I'm not alone in wanting to see Guthrie with fresh eyes.

So this summer, as I planned a coast-to-coast road trip from Brooklyn to my hometown, Mendocino, in California, Guthrie's lyrics kept leaping to mind, running like a ticker across every imagined scene. Before long, they started to shape the route itself. I wouldn't be able to go to every place in America that inspired his music, but I could go to a few where he experienced pivotal creative moments. Using Guthrie as my guide, I would get to know the America that may have inspired the same mix of awe and political passion in him if he could see it today.

~ Becky in Long Beach


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