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 listen. There is the will of the
people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.
Clifton Fadiman, The New Yorker magazines review of Bound for Glory:
Some day people are going to wake up to the fact that Woody Guthrie and the ten thousand
songs that leap and tumble off the strings of his music box are a national possession,
like Yellowstone or Yosemite, and part of the best stuff this country has to show the
Dylan looking particularly Guthriesque
Song To Woody
by Bob Dylan
I'm out here a thousand miles from my home,
Walkin' a road other men have gone down.
I'm seein' your world of people and things,
Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings.
Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
'Bout a funny ol' world that's a-comin' along.
Seems sick an' it's hungry, it's tired an' it's torn,
It looks like it's a-dyin' an' it's hardly been born.
Hey, Woody Guthrie, but I know that you know
All the things that I'm a-sayin' an' a-many times more.
I'm a-singin' you the song, but I can't sing enough,
'Cause there's not many men that done the things that you've done.
Here's to Cisco an' Sonny an' Leadbelly too,
An' to all the good people that traveled with you.
Here's to the hearts and the hands of the men
That come with the dust and are gone with the wind.
I'm a-leaving' tomorrow, but I could leave today,
Somewhere down the road someday.
The very last thing that I'd want to do
Is to say I've been hittin' some hard travelin' too.
Being "a national possession, like Yellowstone or
Yosemite" can sometimes go to your head. On and off during the 1940s, Guthrie sang
with a group called the Almanac Singers. The group included Pete Seegar, Lee Hays, Millard
Lampell and a cast of others. Guthrie was the oldest and one of the few who had not been
raised in a middle- or upper-class family from the Northeast. In short, Guthrie felt his
opinions were more valuable than the others because he was the voice of the common man.
Sometimes, Woodys hallowed status would get to be too much, but it was not until two
other Oklahomans joined the group that Guthrie was finally able to be taken down a peg or
two. The new Okies were Sis Cunningham, who sang and played the accordion, and
her husband, Gordon Friesen, who performed the valuable task of keeping Guthrie in line.
On days when Woody got to bragging too much about his authenticity, Friesen would say
"Woody, what on earth are you talking about? You never harvested a grape in your
life. Youre an intellectual, a poet -- all this singin about jackhammers, if
you ever got within five feet of a jack hammer itd knock you on your ass. You
scrawny little bastard, youre shitting the public: you never did a day of work in
your life." Woody would take this with a wry smile and try not to brag so much. At
least for a little while.