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Woody Guthrie’s birthday

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Woody Guthrie was born 91 years ago today, July 14, 1912.

Besides just generally being a legendary personnae, he wrote surely the greatest commie patriotic anthem ever, “This Land Is Your Land.”

I’ve always been a little skeptical of the guy, actually. Call it right wing extremism (which it may be), but I’ve tended to think of Woody as politically motivated more by resentment against the wealthy and powerful than by any overwhelming sympathy for the poor and downtrodden. The song “Jolly Banker” jumped out at me in this regard. It’s a jaunty little Clementine-ish ditty about a banker savoring the chance to make poor people suffer. Nothing to do with empathy for the poor, everything to do with spite for the evil banker.

Commie bastard though he may have been, he was one songwriting SOB, and a brilliant self-mythologizer. That aspect alone has been of great importance to the rock generations following.

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  • dude

    Well Al, what made the Woodman great was that he was more spiteful than empathic (though Plane Crash in Los Gatos is one of only two songs that brings tears to my eyes). Woody Guthrie, America’s first punk rocker. Happy birthday, Big Dude. Ya done good.

  • Hadn’t thought of it that way, but yeah, I’ll take it. I’d rather hear him mocking bankers and raging on than some making squishy sympathy noises. It’s more invigorating, and just more fun.

  • Eric Olsen

    For his time and situation Guthrie wasn’t any more leftist/populist than many. He may have hated The Man, but he loved kids: his children’s music is a very important part of his legacy.

  • Hated The Man.

    Loved kids.

    Was a hellacious songwriter.

    Wrote “This Land Is Your Land.”

    We need another Woody Guthrie.

  • Hey, let’s have a couple more Woody Guthries. I’m all for it.

  • I dunno – as a Guthrie fan I really think Woody was motivated by the fact he was a political animal, not resentment…in any case – Happy Birthday Woody!

  • Laura

    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is doing a production of Woody Guthrie’s American Song. It’s really good and a great chance to see some live Woody music! Check it out at http://www.coloradoshakes.org.