Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hey, Hey, Woodie Guthrie…

I’ve had this post in my mind for a few weeks now but haven’t got round to transcribing it to paper (or to PC keyboard). I’ve just finished reading Bound for Glory by Woodie Guthrie, his autobiography. And it has been a long time since I’ve truly adored a book, but this now has to be one of my favourite books.

He tells the tale of his life from growing up in a small town in the country to riding railroad wagons across the country singing for the working folk. But it is more than just his life story it presents the reader with social commentary, music, poetry, and images of American society. All done in a subtle manner through the stories he presents.

What we get is a look at American society in the 1920s to 1940s, tales of oil boom towns, of industrial expansion, of agricultural work, of small and large town life, of village life, of the rich man, of the poor man, the white man, the black man, of the downtrodden and of the high and mighty. If there is one book that fully encapsulates this America at its economic and social turning point then it is this book, not some stuffy history tome. This is a book that all Americans should be made to read.

At the same time it has a personal ‘freedom’ aspect that perhaps only Kerouac can match. This is Woody himself up against the world, travelling the country, doing what he loves best, roaming and rambling and singing songs for the working man.

Anyway as you may have gathered I recommend this book, so read it. Check out the Woodie Guthrie foundation website for more on Woody Guthrie, including lyrics such as those below which are from ‘This Land is Your Land’. The website also has the classic photo of Woody with 'this machine kills fascists' written on his guitar on the front page. So it seems that Guthrie was the first punk as well.

This land is your land, This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

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