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Woody Guthrie

Singer / Songwriter

Born: 14 July 1912
Died: 3 October 1967
Birthplace: Okemah, Oklahoma
Best known as: The guy who wrote "This Land Is Your Land"

Name at birth: Woodrow Wilson Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was one of the most famous and influential American folk singers of the 20th century and the composer of standards such as "This Land is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You" and "Tom Joad." Guthrie spent his youth in Oklahoma and Texas, then moved to Los Angeles in 1936 to earn a living as a singer/songwriter. He performed concerts and radio broadcasts and became known in the late '30s for his songs about outsiders and down-and-out working men. Guthrie moved to New York City in 1940 and was part of a well-known crowd of political folk artists and radical activists who championed labor unions and anti-fascist communism. Guthrie travelled the U.S. during the '40s and '50s (including a stint working in Oregon for the Bonneville Power Administration, where he wrote "Roll On Columbia"), but after 1954 he was in and out of hospitals for what was eventually diagnosed as Huntington's Chorea, a degenerative disease that led to his death in 1967. By that time Guthrie was more famous than he had ever been, thanks to the folk rock movement and artists such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Extra credit: Guthrie was named after President Woodrow Wilson... Guthrie served in the Merchant Marines and the Army during World War II... His autobiographical novel Bound For Glory was published in 1943... "Tom Joad" is named for a character in John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath... Guthrie's son, Arlo Guthrie, was an icon of the '60s hippie movement, most famous for his song "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (the inspiration for the 1969 movie Alice's Restaurant) and the hit "City of New Orleans."

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More on Woody Guthrie from Infoplease:

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  • Woody Guthrie - Woody Guthrie (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie) folk singer, composer, songwriter Born: 7/14/1912 ...
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