As I have noted, my father was a singer of folk songs when I was growing up in Binghamton, NY. I did not usually know the source of the tunes that he performed, though I have subsequently have been discovered some of this information.
Back around 2002 or 2003, The Wife and I went to see Woody Guthrie’s American Song at Capital Rep Theatre, when this brace of songs, Worried Man and Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way came up. Both of them were in my father’s repertoire, especially the former. This was a couple years after my father died, and I just lost it. The Car Song was also a Woody tune my dad sang, I’ve come to realize.
Of course, I was a big fan of This Land Is Your Land, mostly the versions by Guthrie’s good friend Pete Seeger. But it wasn’t until later when I learned all those great verses that one didn’t usually hear, such as those about No Trespassing, and the relief office.
But in the 1960s and 1970s, I was probably more a fan of Woody’s son Arlo, of Alice’s Restaurant fame. Woody had died in 1967, and was a remote figure to me.
Woody came alive again for me, though, because of a pair of albums that came out at the end of the last century, Mermaid Avenue, volumes 1 and 2, where Billy Bragg and the band Wilco completed song fragments by Woody. The albums have been re-released with additional material.
The centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth has turned out to be more significant to me than I would have thought 20 or 30 years ago.
Woody Guthrie at 100 by Jim Hightower
Woody Guthrie at 100: The Return of a Pariah by Billy Bragg. “Woody Guthrie was shunned by his home state. Now Oklahoma can finally embrace the singer-songwriter’s work.”