Growing up I didn't know much about Woody Guthrie, other than the fact that he had written "This Land Is Your Land" and had scandalized Oklahomans by becoming a *gasp* communist. As a young adult, however, I had the good fortune of receiving a homemade tape of Guthrie's "Dustbowl Ballads" from a dear friend whose boyfriend was a folk music fanatic (sadly his only redeeming quality). I listened to this tape continously through the sweaty, dry, summer of 1991 as I did my own rambling around in an un-airconditioned Hyundai trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. As "The Ballad of Tom Joad", "Dust Bowl Refugee" and "Talking Dust Bowl Blues" repeated on an endless loop, I began to feel a profound connection to the man whose guitar killed fascists. When he sang of dustbowl refugees, I thought of my father's family travelling to California in the summer of 1936, abandoning their parched farm in the hopes of finding work in the lumber mills (which they did). When Woody spoke I could hear in his voice, the voice of my grandmother - her expressions and okie "twang". Although I didn't manage to sort out my life's purpose that summer, I began to feel more hopeful about my homestate - which all too often is only known for its crackpot conservative politicians and hypocritical Bible thumpers. So, thank you, Woody, and happy 98th birthday to a real hard travelin' Oklahoman.
***Note: I tried to upload the following videos, but was unable to succeed. I've done it in the past - what is going on here?! GRRRR. Hope the links work!
"Dust Can't Kill Me"
"Talking Dust Bowl Blues"
Above pic by Arthur Rothstein