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WOODY GUTHRIE

This Land Is Your Land

Music: Free Music Book

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2012 Woody Guthrie archive to land in his native Oklahoma
The George Kaiser Family Foundation, a charitable organization based in Tulsa, announced Wednesday that it purchased the archives and plans to open the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa by the end of 2012 to mark the centennial of the singer’s birth. The foundation did not disclose how much it paid for the collection, which includes the original handwritten copy of “This Land is Your Land.” Also included are original musical recordings, handwritten songbooks and almost 3,000 song lyrics, rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters and postcards, more than 500 photographs, Guthrie’s annotated record collection and personal papers detailing family matters, his World War II military service and musical career. Woody Guthrie, a native of Okemah, died of Huntington’s disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative condition, in 1967 at the age of 55.

 


"This machine kills fascists" These are the words Woody Guthrie had emblazoned on his guitar. Conventional wisdom is you can't change the world with a song.  I don't buy that.  The arts are the voice of the proletariat, music, plays, books, they're the only way the impoverished masses can stand up to power. 

Woody Guthrie

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen.
-- Woody Guthrie's Birthday: 7/14/1912

"It's not how pretty a song is,
but what good a song does."
-
- Woody Guthrie

 

Pete Seeger said June 1967
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 of one 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 don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

Definition "poor folkist". . .
Woody Guthrie's "poor folkist" term, coined in his letter to Stetson Kennedy was using the common vernacular and everyday wisdom to move folks emotionally and politically. You may assume the stress is on the first word ("poor folkist"), implying that the concern is for "poor folk," and aligning the folklorist whose subject was "poor folk" with socialist and communists and other left "ists." Or, that "folkist" may on occasion have been a pun for "focused"-- potentially an ironic comment on the more formally-driven folklorists and political theorists in his midst.

Woody Guthrie's linked folklore with good citizenship. Ranger's Command," is from 1945.

 

Woody Guthrie's Anthem This Land Is Your Land.

Original Copy of the Song God Blessed America

[God Blessed America]
This Land Was Made For You And Me

This land is your land, this land is my land
From [the] California to the [Staten] New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
[God blessed America for me.]


As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
[God blessed America for me.]

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me , a voice was sounding:
[God blessed America for me.]

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn't say nothing --
[God blessed America for me.]

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
[God blessed America for me.]

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people --
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
[God blessed America for me.]

The missing verses of Woody Guthrie's anthem, and the following content are from Nick Spitzer

"Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted, said 'Private property.'
But on the other side it didn't say nothing.
This land was made for you and me."

Pete, Arlo and others often sang/sing the last line above as: "That side was made for you and me."

You can hear the missing version and related materials on "Woody Guthrie: 'This Land is Your Land': The Asch Recordings Vol. 1 (Smithsonian-Folkways) put together by Jeff Place and Guy Logsdon.
The verse written on paper in 1940 that appears to never have been used on a recording--I think it was really out of date by the 1944 recording session, and the War effort probably made such critiques as this and the "private property" lines seem inappropriate to many --is:

"One bright sunny morning
In the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office I saw my people
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering
If God blessed America for me."

 

An Appreciation by WOODIE GUTHRIE
From Jason Baird Jackson <jjackson@ou.edu>
Assistant Curator of Ethnology
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
University of Oklahoma
2401 Chautauqua
Norman, Oklahoma 73072-7029 (from a letter to the author, 1947)

I don't know of a book on my whole shelf, Stet, that hits me any harder than your Palmetto Country. I have read it and I am still reading it and can now say with both safety and surity that it gives me a better trip and taste and look and feel for Florida than I got in the 47 states I've actually been in body and tramped in boot. If only, and if only, all our library books could say what you did--the jokes and songs, and old ballads about the voodoo and the hoodoo and the bigly winds down in you neck of the woodvine.
I would like for you to send me the several best songs that you have collected in your career as a poor folkist. I mean of the sort that makes the wives of Senators faint when they hear them.
If I'd never been around with you on your jags, and when you were grinding out another batch of ammo in your little room, or never heard you make your lecture talks against the KKK and all the rest of the stoolies, gooners, and fonies in general, the raceyhaters, pinkybaiters, deadbrainers, and fraidycats, and never been with you as a friend in scattered thunderyshowers, I know I'd still feel this way about your book.
If every book on the shelf hit and kicked and jumped in the right direction just 2/3 as much as your Palmetto Country does I'd feel lots more like a man. Most dam books make me feel like an ass whole. But a few like your's have kept me standing up like a saw leaf palm.
One of these days you can look for me and my guitar to come staggering up to your front porch there and in all promability we will have a big long talk.
Keep on traveling where your own free conscience takes you (as you've always done anyhow) and there's no earthly ends to the goods and benifits you can perform.


Your Stud Buddy,
[Signed] Woody Guthrie

 

 

Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song: Correspondence, 1940-1950 highlights letters between Woody Guthrie and staff of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center) at the Library of Congress. The letters were written primarily in the early 1940s, shortly after Guthrie had moved to New York City and met the Archive's assistant in charge, Alan Lomax. In New York Guthrie pursued broadcasting and recording careers, meeting a cadre of artists and social activists and gaining a reputation as a talented and influential songwriter and performer. His written and, occasionally, illustrated reflections on his past, his art, his life in New York City, and the looming Second World War provide unique insight into the artist best-known for his role as "Dust Bowl balladeer." The online presentation contains fifty-three items (eighty-four pages) of manuscript material by, about, and to Woody Guthrie, from 1940 to 1950. It is selected from material in the Woody Guthrie Manuscript Collection and the American Folklife Center's correspondence files. The presentation includes a biographical essay; a timeline of Guthrie's life; and an encoded finding aid of Guthrie archival materials at the Library of Congress.

Hays, Seeger and Woody Guthrie — as part of the Almanac Singers — toured college campuses and union rallies

 

This Land is Your Land Parodies

This Land is Your Land Copyright Expired
Music publisher Ludlow Music agreed to allow JibJab Media to distribute its internet film with animated Bush and Kerry characters, "This Land," based on the tune "This Land is your Land," without interference.
It adds: "Attorneys for JibJab also said they have found evidence that the copyright on Guthrie's song expired in 1973, meaning that anyone can use it for free." This song belongs to you and me :-)

Guthrie never owned this melody. Guthrie wrote the lyrics.  The melody is a total lifting from AP Carter's "Little Darling Pal of Mine" and Guthrie did not write a note of it.  So there never was a time that Guthrie or Ludlow owned anything that JibJab used. Nor was this the only Carter item that Guthrie utilized. His "Sinking of the Reuben James" used the melody of Carter's biggest hit, "The Wildwood Flower." But complications do not end there: Carter's version of the latter was taken from a late 1800s pop song.  So Guthrie once saluted Carter with this delightful compliment: "He was a great song stealer, but I was greater than he, because I stole some of his."

JIBJAB -  StoryFilm - JibJab does it again The Second Term

 

WOODY G. (Feb 23, 1940)
N.Y., N.Y., Feb 23, 1940
43rd Street & 6th Avenue
Hanover House

We have a number of printed versions, parodies, etc. of "This Land.." in our files including the following from Washington, DC, "This Lane is Your Lane", about bicyclists and cars sharing the road. It was written by Peter Harnik of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and was apparently sung at the May 1994 Library of Congress "Bike-to-Work Day" festivities.

"This Lane is Your Lane"

This lane is your lane, this lane is my lane,
From California Street to New York Avenue,
From Tysons Corner to Wheaton Plaza,
This lane is made for you and me.

As I was cycling on the side of the road,
With the beercans flying in the usual mode,
Someone made room for me, and made me see --
This lane is made for you and me.

This lane is your lane, this lane is my lane,
From California Street to New York Avenue,
From Union Station to Dulles Airport,
This land is made for you and me.

And now I bicycle in the middle of traffic,
Ignoring gestures uncouth and graphic,
Don't try to squeeze me out, Cause I will shout --
This lane is made for you and me.

This lane is your lane, this lane is my lane,
From California Street to New York Avenue,
From Ballston Common to Andrew's Air Force Base,This lane is made for you and me.

Ann Hoog <ahoo@LOC.GOV>
Reference Specialist
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4610

RESOURCES

Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land"
Ran on All Things Considered Monday July 3, 2000. Click on the piece for a Real Audio download. Other music profiles are there as well. More songs

Enjoy hearing Alan Lomax interview Woody Guthrie decades ago. It is important for Americans understand the history about this beloved song, especially enjoy learning about the verses to the song that have been suppressed over the years.

 

Notes on the songs by Woody Guthrie Music transcribed and edited and with a new afterword by Pete Seeger University of Nebraska Press

Sound Protraits
In March of 1940, a young Woody Guthrie sat with folklorist Alan Lomax at the U.S. Department of the Interior studios for a series of oral history interviews for the Library of Congress archives. They were the first-ever professional recordings of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, and while some of these recordings have been released on record, the original aluminum discs remain at the Library of Congress. Originally broadcast on the 29th anniversary of his death, the recordings offer a glimpse of Guthrie's early music style and a frank account of his harrowing past.

RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT on Woody Guthrie

Toils and Triumphs of Woody Guthrie, in the words of his friends, family and fellow travelers.

Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein

Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People Compiled by Alan Lomax

WOODY GUTHRIE TRIBUTES and PICTURES

Lefsetz - it all comes down to education, values, & learning how to think.
Some say that Woody was a communist and that the song had ideological intent, others say the CPUSA would not let Woody join, and thought he was too undisciplined to be a communist. Woody was not a folklorist, he was just plain folk, and composed and sang true to his Oklahoma traditions. But he meant to make the song and the nationalist content available to all oppressed people. The verses about private property were censored by the communists of the period in deference to the swing of the party line toward supporting the "war effort". So maybe the records were made without the two missing verses but Guthrie sang them at parties and rallies and the audience for whom he sang understood them.

The "All-Star" finale at the Woody Guthrie tribute

Rick, Bob, and Robbie at the Woody Guthrie tribute, 1968

Levon, Rick, Bob, and Robbie, Woody Guthrie tribute

This was part of the "NPR 100" musical works of the 20th century coverage.
Interviews are included with Pete Seeger the world's most incredible communist and Guthrie's daughter Nora. Focus is given to how "This Land..." was composed, Guthrie's influences culturally and musically, and his mix of literary and oral approaches to song making. How "This Land..." emerged as an alternative National Anthem -- and the famous missing verses about "private property" and the "relief office" -- are discussed using the missing recording discovered by Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place. Segments from Alan Lomax's 1940 interview of Guthrie for the Library of Congress are also heard.

WOODY GUTHRIE FOUNDATION PROJECTS
See the handwritten manuscript to "This Land is Your Land."

WOODY GUTHRIE ARCHIVES AND COLLECTION
250 West 57th Street,
Suite 1218
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 541-6230 E-Mail: WGArchive@aol.com
The questions of Guthrie's communist interest -- especially his love for some of the ideas if not the ideology, the better intentions if not the doctrinaire style of thought and comportment--are partly addressed in the intro to the NPR piece where the idea of "This Land..." as a Marxist response to "God Bless America" is noted as are reasons the verse may have been unrecorded and/or suppressed and de-emphasized by some, but not all.
In a 13 minute radio piece about the song itself, it is hard to fully articulate the all issues here, but I would refrain from putting "folk" and "folklorist" in some form of ideal type continuum juxtaposition in Woody's case (and most cases). Guthrie was clearly a complex figure who embodied many things "folk" as conventionally understood, but he also was an outsider in his own culture in some ways, due to conditions, personal, familial and economic--which is kind of the point about why people seek to re-invent and reclaim culture they feel cut off from . . . something certainly folk and folklorist alike often try to do. As a song gatherer, documenter of social/cultural conditions, and interpretive voice, Guthrie was part "folklorist" in a way--responding to romantic nationalist and literary traditions--though he had neither degree nor formal training.
In the 1940 interviews at the LOC, one is continually struck how much Lomax presses Guthrie for a "folk" background with a sort of prosecutorial zeal:
"Did you live on a farm?" (Guthrie was a town dweller from a family of some means). Guthrie also acknowledges a source from the popular country singer "Blue Yodeler" Jimmie Rodgers--probably not Lomax's ideal influence. Elsewhere he credits A.P. Carter for many of the tunes he applied to his own highly personal song creations.
Guthrie's mix of personal experience, community culture, Southwest populism, labor activism and selective appropriation of East Coast urban intellectual and Left rhetoric make him something more complex than the labels folk, communist, folklorist, or even balladeer and poet encompass. That "This Land..." and other works crossed boundaries either by appropriation or exertion is not surprising given his own beyond category qualities. His identity ambivalence--and both the power and problems that created for him--was once expressed in his own self-descriptive pun that he was not a folklorist, but a "poor folkist."

ARLO GUTHRIE

Arlo Guthrie - by Bob Lefsetz about Arlo and today's world. mp3

Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie's Storied Career
By Richard Harrington Washington Post Company
HAD ARLO Guthrie known his "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" would be so popular and enduring, he surely would have made it shorter. After all, it took 18 minutes and 20 seconds, and one full side, of his 1967 debut album for Guthrie to gleefully recount the saga of how two years earlier he and his buddy Rick Robbins tried to help his former teachers Alice and Ray Brock clean their Stockbridge, Mass., home -- a deconsecrated 17th-century church -- for Thanksgiving dinner by taking a half-ton of garbage to the local dump in their Volkswagen bus. Except the dump was closed, leading Guthrie and Robbins to toss everything down a residential hillside.
When Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein (forever after called Officer Obie) inspected the mess, he found a scrap of paper with the Brocks' address, and soon after their young guests (18 and 19 at the time) were arrested for littering -- literally "illegally disposing of rubbish." Alice bailed them out, and after pleading guilty before a blind judge, Guthrie and Robbins were fined $25 each, which left them with a criminal record; they also had to pick up the garbage in the snow.
That could have been the end of the story, except that it was the middle of the war in Vietnam, and when the draft board called, Guthrie's misdemeanor proved a far greater obstacle to his being inducted into the Army than his hilarious efforts to paint himself as a bloodthirsty psycho. In fact, Guthrie's littering rendered him unfit for military service.
Guthrie's tall-but-true, decidedly exaggerated monologue was told with sardonic charm, framed by a mini-chorus that gave the track its name despite having almost nothing to do with the story. Four years later, Guthrie found himself appearing, with Officer Obie, the blind judge (James Hannon) and Alice herself (in a cameo) in Arthur Penn's film version of "Alice's Restaurant," by which time Guthrie was well on his way to a successful music career that still finds him touring 10 months out of the year.
"Alice's Restaurant" would dip in and out of Guthrie's repertoire, first retired after the end of the war in Vietnam, briefly replaced by another fable in which Guthrie talked about Richard Nixon owning a copy of "Alice's Restaurant" and jokingly suggested that that might explain the famous 18 1/2 -minute gap in the Watergate tapes. Guthrie revived the original in 1995 when he recorded a "30th anniversary edition" of his debut album and "ran it around for a couple of years," he says. "But then we dropped it, and now, much sooner than I thought, we're here at the 40th anniversary" of the incident.
People, Guthrie explains, "were demanding it for everyday shows. But it was just too long and sometimes it didn't seem quite appropriate except as some kind of nostalgic piece, perhaps. And to spend a half-hour on that, I thought, was crazy! Had it been a three-minute song like 'The City of New Orleans' [the Steve Goodman train classic that is Guthrie's only charted hit] it wouldn't be a problem. What I did was promise everybody that really wanted to hear that on the occasion of these anniversaries, we would serve it up again, as it were."
Thus we have the Alice's Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour, which stops at the Birchmere on Wednesday. Thankfully, Guthrie hasn't had to set up a teleprompter to guide the telling four decades on. "I thought about it," he admits. "After three nights, it came back."
It never really went away, even as Guthrie suggests that "nobody in their right mind would have expected an 18-minute monologue to have shelf life, especially in an era when radio refused to play anything that was over 2 1/2 minutes."
Yet Guthrie sensed something special, particularly in the two years before he recorded "Alice's Restaurant," when he was just starting to perform and his audience was made up of "a wide variety of political types, right and left, social types, people from all walks of life. To see the effect on people who hadn't heard it before, to see all those different kinds of Americans laughing together and singing together was so powerful for me. As the decades went by and as it became more and more popular, that faded, and it became even more of an inducement not to perform it."
"Alice's Restaurant" is sometimes construed as an antiwar song, though Guthrie has always said it's more about the ways in which government works -- or doesn't.
"Most people don't know we did as well at the PXs [commissaries on Army bases] and that it was hugely popular with the guys in Vietnam," Guthrie says. "I have photographs and letters from guys who set up little 'Alice's Restaurant' tents, who would get together and quote parts of the song that their superiors would have no knowledge of. I was obviously personally opposed to the war, but the song wasn't about that, but about the absurdity of the situation that I found myself in, which was not unique to me -- it was the same for hundreds of thousands of regular guys."
Born in 1947, Arlo was the son of Marjorie Guthrie, a dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Woody Guthrie, whose songs of social justice helped spark the folk-music movement. After a 14-year battle with the debilitating Huntington's chorea, known for some time afterward as Woody Guthrie's disease, the folk icon died in 1967, a month before the release of "Alice's Restaurant." The song was at least partly influenced by Woody Guthrie and his circle of friends from the folk and blues worlds.
"It's not that far from a talking blues, and that style was something my dad was very comfortable with," Arlo Guthrie explains. "And there were other musicians like [bluesmen] Mississippi John Hurt or Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee who would tell stories between and in the middle of their songs. It was like sitting around a living room and not seeing a performance so much as sharing stories and songs. I incorporated that -- I mean, I just stole it."
Guthrie, however, quickly established his own identity and crafted his substantial song catalogue, while championing numerous causes, from the social and the spiritual to the environmental. An occasional actor in films and television, Guthrie's not overly fond of the 1969 "Alice's Restaurant" movie.
"Arthur Penn is a brilliant director who happened to live in Stockbridge, and he knew, unlike a lot of other people, that the events in the song were true," Guthrie explains. "He knew Officer Obie and Judge Hannon and knew from newspaper articles that I wasn't making this stuff up, and he thought, 'I've got to turn this into a film.' Well, he's got a 20-minute piece of truth and he's got to make a 90-minute movie, so that was his dilemma. To help get over that, they created another 70 minutes of stuff, all of which was fiction. The sad thing was it didn't have the same gentle sense of humor that the song had: Everything falls apart, and everyone goes their own way. It was in some way a film about how the idealism of my generation could not possibly succeed in the way that we thought it would."
Penn used the Brocks' church/home as a metaphor, including one scene in which a man stands up and says, "We're going to reconsecrate this church." "And that's exactly the one thing we did," Guthrie says. In fact, "Alice's church" is now the Guthrie Center and Guthrie Foundation. Named after Guthrie's parents, it's an interfaith church celebrating religious and cultural diversity, and a not-for-profit educational foundation. And the story of how that came about is so Arlo: "In 1991, we were doing one of those 'whatever happened to him' TV shows, and we were filming outside the church and the people who owned it came out and said, 'That's Arlo Guthrie, let's get him to buy it!' I hadn't even been back to the church since 1970, and it never even occurred to me. This was like a friend's home -- you would never think of buying a friend's home, even if they had moved out. It was never in the farthest reaches of my imagination that we would wind up in this old building that meant so much to so many people, where not only the song had been written but where we had made the movie.
"It wasn't something I wanted for me or could even do financially, but I thought if enough people were willing to help, we could do it and create another little place in the world where people of different persuasions could learn to get along and cherish traditions."
And that's exactly what happened. The church provides weekly free lunches in the community and support for families living with HIV/AIDS as well as other life-threatening illnesses. It also hosts a summertime concert series and Guthrie does six or seven fundraising shows there every year. There are several annual events such as the Walk-A-Thon to Cure Huntington's Disease and a "Thanksgiving Dinner That Can't Be Beat" for families, friends, doctors and scientists who live and work with Huntington's disease. The walk-a-thon, also known as the Garbage Trail Walk to Massacree HD, includes stops at the Stockbridge Police Department and Theresa's Stockbridge Cafe, where a sign outside reads "formerly Alice's Restaurant." "We go from the church to the station, where they saved the old door of the jail cell, and they bring it outside and the chief takes pictures of everybody behind the bars," Guthrie chuckles. "Then we go to Theresa's." Ironically, the name of that restaurant was never Alice's but the Back Door (it was in the back of a grocery store) and it lasted only a year. Alice broke up with Ray, sold the restaurant and left town. She went on to become a successful artist and now lives in Provincetown, R.I. Since
1983, Guthrie has owned Rising Son Records, which releases his albums (including his classics for Reprise) as well those by son Abe (who plays in his father's band as well as fronting his own, Xavier) and daughter Sarah Lee (who is married to and performs with Johnny Irion). Daughters Cathy and Annie Guthrie run the business, though Guthrie says he never anticipated a continuing family dynasty.
"I grew up in an era when if you were playing folk songs, it was when you got home from a regular job," he says. "It wasn't a profession. I mean, there might have been a few professionals, but they were few and far between, so I never thought I would be a professional. But I love playing, and after it created a demand, I just kept going with it. And it ended up being the path of least resistance, and I think my kids did the same thing. I mean, they all tried to become normal, it just didn't work out for them."

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