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Woody Guthrie

An August 2022 view of a statue of folk singer Woody Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma. Growing up amid the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era, Guthrie’s experiences profoundly shaped his work as a folk singer and songwriter.

His music reflected the struggles of the working class and addressed social and political issues of the time. Guthrie’s songs often featured simple melodies and powerful lyrics that resonated with the common people.

During the Dust Bowl, Guthrie wrote and recorded a series of songs called the “Dust Bowl Ballads.” These songs documented the hardships those those affected by the severe dust storms and economic challenges of the time faced. One of his most famous compositions from this period is “This Land Is Your Land,” which has become an enduring anthem of American folk music.

Guthrie’s influence on American folk music is immeasurable. His songs were powerful social commentaries, and many artists, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, have cited Guthrie as a major influence on their work.

Guthrie’s commitment to social justice extended beyond his music. He was involved in various political and labor movements, using his platform to advocate for the rights of workers and marginalized communities. His guitar bore a slogan that would become famous: “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

Later, Guthrie battled Huntington’s disease, a hereditary neurological disorder. Despite his declining health, his impact on American folk music endured. Guthrie passed away on October 3, 1967, leaving behind a rich legacy of music and activism.

His contributions to folk music and advocacy for social causes have left an indelible mark on American culture. His songs continue to be celebrated for their authenticity, storytelling, and timeless relevance to the struggles and triumphs of the human experience.

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