Woody Guthrie

Few artists in folk music history carry the enduring influence of Woody Guthrie, whose most famous song This Land Is Your Land is central to American culture and is almost considered the alternative American national anthem. Guthrie's solidarity with the working man and woman was shaped by the deprivation he saw during the dust bowl storms which struck Oklahoma and Texas in the 1930s, wrecking the lives of hundreds of families and driving them en masse to seek a better life in California. He played guitar and sang to keep their spirits up on their journey, making up songs about them; these songs, that ultimately surfaced on his epic Dust Bowl Ballads collection, were recorded by Alan Lomax. In New York Guthrie featured regularly on radio shows, was idolised by the emergent folk movement being driven by the likes of Pete Seeger and in 1940 wrote This Land Is Your Land as a direct riposte to the overt patriotism of Irving Berlin's God Bless America. Briefly joining the Almanac Singers collective, Guthrie played regularly at union gatherings and continued to write classic songs like Deportees, Pretty Boy Floyd and Do Re Mi. Ultimately hailed as the godfather of American folk song, he profoundly influenced a new generation of singer-songwriters, most famously Bob Dylan, who visited Guthrie in hospital before his death from the hereditary Huntington's Disease in 1967.

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