Woody Guthrie, born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, was born
in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. When he was 16 he began to
travel around the United States (Feather 428). He had a
great love for music and soon began writing his own songs
about the Great Depression and the treatment of the migrant
workers, who were forced to move west because of the Dust
His music greatly influenced many people across the
country. However, Woody never let the fame go to his head.
When Woody Guthrie was singing hillbilly
songs on a little Los Angeles radio station in the late
1930s, he used to mail out a small mimeographed
songbook to listeners who wanted the words to his
songs, On the bottom page appeared the following:
This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of
Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and
anybody caught singin it without our permission,
will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we dont
give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to
it. Yodel it. We wrote it, thats all we wanted to
do.(qtd. Pete Seeger
Woody was very passionate about his causes. He felt very
strongly about the mistreatment of the migrant workers,
probably because he was himself an Okie. His works
served as inspiration for musicians like Bob Dylan and Pete
Seeger and not to mention countless, less-famous others
One of Woodys most popular song about the novel The
Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinback. It was entitled Tom
Joad. The song basically summarized the entire novel. The
last few lines of the song were very important, they were
also the last words that Tom Joad said to Ma in the novel
Wherever people aint happy,
and wherever they aint free
Thats where Im gonna be Ma,
Thats where Im a-gonna be.
Although many people disliked The Grapes of Wrath
because they felt it had communist ideals, people loved the
song; probably because people loved Woody.
However, many people didnt know that Woody was
diagnosed with an emotional disorder that resulted in years
of turmoil amongst him and his family. He ended up
becoming a recluse. A lot of his songs were written while he
was in seclusion. Huntingtons disease ended up causing his
death in 1967 (Feather 428).
Despite the many challenges that Woody faced
throughout his lifetime, his work has always exhibited great
talent. His works have carried on for many years, and will
continue to let us glimpse into another time and into the lives
of others. He showed us the pain of the migrant workers
while exposing the corrupt system that was keeping them in
misery. This kind of passion and dedication led people to
revolt against this system and stand up for the
basic human rights that these workers were being kept from
having. Woody saw all of this and worked to improve the
lives of these people, by simply making others aware of the
Woody wrote a biography about his life called Bound for
Glory. It was published in 1943 and was basically a collection
of his works and thoughts.
Woody Guthrie is widely considered the most influential
American folk musician. His music has affected many people
throughout the years. John Steinback once said of Woody..
Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not
know he has any other name. He is just a voice
and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I
suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh
voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron
on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about
Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs
he sings. But there is something more important
for those who will listen. There is the will of the
people to endure and fight against oppression. I
think we call this the American spirit.
(qtd. Steinback. www.geocities.com/Nashville3448
Woody was and is the voice of his generation. He saw
what was wrong and did his part to fix it. He is a hero.
Woody Guthrie changed the face of music as well as his
society by holding fast to his convictions and writing
from the heart. He truly does sum up the essence of the
Feather, Leonard. Woody Guthrie. World Book
Encyclopedia. 1985 ed.
Woody Guthrie 24 April 2000. http://www.geocities.