Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) was an iconic American individual – songwriter, musician, political activist. He had a huge effect on Pete Seeger, whose group the Weavers, recorded So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh [LISTEN to Woody’s version]. He also hosted a young Bob Dylan in his hospital room, after he had been diagnosed with the Huntington’s disease that would kill him. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as an early influence.
I saw a video of Michael Feinstein, who tended to Ira Gershwin’s papers the last six years of the lyricist’s life. Feinstein was asked who is missing from the discussion of the Great American Songbook, musical standards written by Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, and the like in the first half of the 20th Century. Feinstein suggested Woody Guthrie, whose This Land Is Your Land is at least as beloved as Someone To Watch Over Me.
I wrote about Woody previously HERE.
One of his sons, with his second wife Marjorie, was Arlo Davy Guthrie, who became noteworthy from his performance of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”, a satirical talking blues song about 18 minutes in length [LISTEN], which was the basis of a movie in which he played himself; it’s now a Thanksgiving tradition. He performed at Woodstock; LISTEN to the studio version of Coming Into Los Angeles. He was not a singles artist, but did have a modest hit with Steve Goodman’s train song City of New Orleans, #18 in 1972. Here is his version of his father’s Oklahoma Hills. Arlo has toured with Woody’s old chum Pete Seeger. (Arlo on the late Pete Seeger.)
The Guthrie family is musical. Arlo’s “sister is record producer Nora Guthrie.” Arlo’s children “have also become musicians. Annie Guthrie writes songs and performs, and also takes care of family touring details. Sarah Lee performs and records with her husband Johnny Irion. Cathy plays ukulele in Folk Uke, a group she formed with Amy Nelson, the daughter of Willie Nelson. Abe Guthrie was formerly in a folk-rock band called Xavier, and now tours with his father. Abe Guthrie’s son, Krishna, is a drummer and toured with Arlo Guthrie on his European tour…”
So music is a Guthrie family affair.