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Woody Guthrie

Guthrie, Woody (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie), 1912–67, American folk singer, guitarist, and composer, b. Okemah, Okla. Guthrie was an itinerant musician and laborer from the age of 13. Deeply involved in union and left-wing politics, he wrote many of his more than 1,000 published songs on themes of social injustice, poverty, and politics. A friend of Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, and Ramblin Jack Elliott, Guthrie became an iconic figure in American folk music, exerting great influence on younger performers, notably Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. His most famous song is undoubtedly "This Land Is Your Land." Other songs include "Hard Traveling,""Pretty Boy Floyd,""Pastures of Plenty," and "Deportee." Guthrie also wrote a Dust Bowl novel, House of Earth (1947, pub. 2013).

See his autobiography, Bound for Glory (1943, rev. ed. 1968) and his partially fictional memoir Seeds of Man (written 1930s, pub. 1976, repr. 1995); biographies by J. Klein (1980), E. Cray (2004), and W. Kaufman (2011); R. Shelton, ed., Born to Win (1965); H. Yurchenco and M. Guthrie, A Mighty Hard Road (1970).

Guthrie's son, Arlo Guthrie, 1947–, b. New York City, is also a folk singer and composer. He is best known for "Alice's Restaurant," a rambling, witty song that was the basis of a motion picture in which he starred (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Popular and Jazz: Biographies

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