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Woody Guthrie

Author Kevin Shortsleeve
Air Date 7/16/2001

Woody Guthrie Transcript

Woody Guthrie is best known for such folk songs as This Land is Your Land, and Pastures of Plenty. His lyrics have had no small influence on rock music, inspiring the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellancamp. Guthrie was known as a champion of the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, and the ignored — so perhaps it is fitting that his canon also includes an inspired collection of children’s songs. In the 1990s, many of these songs were re-released on CDs such as “This Land is Your Land” and “Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs.” Unlike the laments of his dust bowl ballads, Guthrie’s children’s songs have a vibrant and optimistic joy about them, such as this 1946 recording about a car ride.

But Woody also had an agenda with regard to his children’s songs. He wrote: “I don’t want you to use these songs to split your family apart, to give the kids something to do while you do something else. I want to see you throw down your book, your paper, magazine, your worries and your troubles, and to come and join in with the kids.”

Woody composed these songs to entertain his own children, and so it is more than appropriate that his son, folksinger Arlo Guthrie, has re-recorded a number of his father’s children’s songs. Arlo, known for such hits as Alice’s Restaurant and City of New Orleans, adds a personal touch to songs already laced with a joyful authenticity.

And the revival of Woody’s works for children continues. Most recently, Candlewick Press has turned three of Woody’s songs into picture books, Howdi Do, Bling Blang and My Dolly, – all illustrated with rollicking abstract pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.

Guthrie once observed about his goals in writing music for children: “I’m not trying to lure, to bait, to trick, nor to teach because kids have taught me all I ever will know.”

Works Consulted:

This Land Is Your Land, Rounder Records, 1997

Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs, Warner Bros. Records, 1992

Pastures of Plenty, By Woody Guthrie, edited by Dave Marsh and Harold Leventhal, Harper Collins Publishers, 1990.

Bling Blang , Howdi Do and My Dolly, All three with text by Woody Guthrie and illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky, Candlewick Press, Cambridge MA, 2000-2001

This land is Your Land, text by Woody Guthrie, illustrations by Kathy Jakobsen, Littler Brown and Company, Boston, 1998

Bound for Glory, by Woody Guthrie, A Plume Books, The Penguin Group, 1983.

Contemporary Authors, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie 1912-1967, Volume 113, pp. 211-215.

New York Time Book Review, My Dolly, April 15, 2001.

Posted in Music