Woody Guthrie (14 July, 1912 – 3 October, 1967) was an American author, folk singer, and song-writer. Mr. Guthrie’s songs inspired generations of Americans musically and politically.
Fun Facts Woody Guthrie:
- Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma to Nora Belle and Charles Edward Guthrie, an industrious businessman, cowboy, and politician in Okfuskee County. He was named after Presidential candidate and New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson.
- Charles was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and even involved in the May 25, 1911 lynching of Laura Nelson and her son L.D. Nelson, which his son wrote three songs about.
- The young man’s life wasn’t easy. When he was seven, his sister Clara died after setting her cloths on fire when arguing with their mother. The family’s fortunes were ruined due to fire and bad deals his father made. His mother was institutionalized when he was 14 years old, suffering from an undiagnosed case of Huntington’s disease.
- Woody Guthrie, mostly known for his songs, wrote his first novel in 1943, detailing his experiences of living through the Dust Bowl.
- The singer was married three times. The three children from his first marriage all passed away before they were 41. His son, Bill, died in a car accident, when he was 23 and both his daughters, Gwendolyn and Sue died of Huntington’s Disease.
- Even though many people think he was a Communist, Mr. Guthrie never joined any Communist groups.
- He had a daily radio show, but was fired after the station’s owners felt he was embracing the Soviet Union in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This is when “the Oklahoma Cowboy” moved to New York City and embraced folk music and its community.
- Woody Guthrie’s most famous song, This Land is Your Land, was written as a protest to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. The song celebrated America’s splendor, while criticizing the nation for not living up to its ideals. During World War II, Mr. Guthrie took several controversial verses).
- Woody Guthrie’s behavior was erratic at times. Many thought it was alcohol or mental illness. Later on, however, he was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, which killed his mother.
- The last 13 years of Wood Guthrie’s life were spent in institutions. In 1956, thinking he would get better, he checked himself out and ended up homeless around Morristown, New Jersey. He was arrested and was diagnosed with the disease in Greystone Park Psychiatric hospital, which where he lived until his death.
Zohar – Man of la Book
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