Last modified on 11 September 2014, at 01:29

Woody Guthrie

The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine, a working machine...

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (14 July 19123 October 1967) was a prolific American folk musician, most famous for his song "This Land Is Your Land" (1940).

SourcedEdit

My eyes has been my camera taking pictures of the world and my songs has been my messages that I tried to scatter across the back sides and along the steps of the fire escapes and on the window sills and through the dark halls...
Let me be known as just the man that told you something you already knew...
I have hoped as many hopes and dreamed so many dreams, seen them swept aside by weather, and blown away by men, washed away in my own mistakes...
These pleasures that you cannot ever forget are the yeast that always starts working in your mind again, and it gets in your thoughts again, and in your eyes again, and then, all at once, no matter what has happened to you, you are building a brand new world again...
I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.
  • This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don't give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.
    • Message on mimeographed copies of lyrics distributed to fans in the 1930s as quoted by Pete Seeger in an NPR interview "Pete Seeger remembers Woody" (1996).
  • My eyes has been my camera taking pictures of the world and my songs has been my messages that I tried to scatter across the back sides and along the steps of the fire escapes and on the window sills and through the dark halls...
    • Bound For Glory (1943).
  • One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
    By the Relief Office I saw my people
    As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
    God blessed America for me.
    • Final stanza of manuscript notes for "God Blessed America" which later became "This Land Is Your Land" (23 February 1940).
  • All you can write is what you see.
    • Comment written on his first manuscript notes for "God Blessed America" (23 February 1940); quoted in Woody Guthrie: A Life (1981) by Joe Klein, p. 136.
  • I have hoped as many hopes and dreamed so many dreams, seen them swept aside by weather, and blown away by men, washed away in my own mistakes, that — I use to wonder if it wouldn't be better just to haul off and quit hoping. Just protect my own inner brain, my own mind and heart, by drawing it up into a hard knot, and not having any more hopes or dreams at all. Pull in my feelings, and call back all of my sentiments — and not let any earthly event move me in either direction, either cause me to hate, to fear, to love, to care, to take sides, to argue the matter at all — and, yet ... there are certain good times, and pleasures that I never can forget, no matter how much I want to, because the pleasures, and the displeasures, the good times and the bad, are really all there is to me.
    And these pleasures that you cannot ever forget are the yeast that always starts working in your mind again, and it gets in your thoughts again, and in your eyes again, and then, all at once, no matter what has happened to you, you are building a brand new world again, based and built on the mistakes, the wreck, the hard luck and trouble of the old one.
  • The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine, a working machine, and any song that says, the pleasures I have seen in all of my trouble, are the things I never can get — don't worry — the human race will sing this way as long as there is a human to race.
    The human race is a pretty old place.
    • "Notes about Music" (29 March 1946) also quoted in Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (2004) by Ed Cray
  • Let me be known as just the man that told you something you already knew.
    • "Notes about Music" (29 March 1946), quoted in "Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie : American Proghet-singers and their People" in: Journal of American Studies (April 1990), p. 55.
  • I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
    I slept on the ground in the light of the moon
    On the edge of the city you'll see us and then
    We come with the dust and we go with the wind
    • "Pastures of Plenty" (1941).
  • Okemah was one of the singiest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razor carryingest of our ranch towns and farm towns, because it blossomed out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns.
    • Pastures Of Plenty: A Self Portrait (1990), p. 3.
  • I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. ... I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.
    I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.

    And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think you've not any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.
    • Statement quoted in Prophet Singer: The Voice And Vision of Woody Guthrie (2007) by Mark Allan Jackson. There are a few slight variants of this statement, which seems to have originated in a performance monologue.

This Land Is Your Land (1940; 1944)Edit

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is made for you and me.
"This Land Is Your Land" was written primarily on 23 February 1940 as "God Blessed America", but was not recorded until 1944, after the title and a few of the lyrics were altered. Significant variations exist among various published and recorded versions of the song. - Full lyrics at Wikisource
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land is made for you and me.
  • This land is your land, this land is my land
    From California to the New York Island
    From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land is made for you and me.
  • As I go walking this ribbon of highway
    I see above me the endless skyway
    And all around me the wind keeps saying:
    This land is made for you and me.
  • When the sun came shining as I was strolling,
    And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
    As the fog was lifting a voice come chanting:
    This land was made for you and me.
    • This is one of the more variable of the stanzas; other renditions include:
      • Where the wind is blowing I go a strolling
        The wheat field waving and the dust clouds rolling
        The fog is lifting and the wind is saying:
        This land is made for you and me.
      • The sun comes shining as I was strolling,
        The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
        The fog was lifting as a voice come chanting:
        This land was made for you and me.
  • Nobody living can ever stop me
    As I go walking my freedom highway
    Nobody living can make me turn back
    This land was made for you and me.
    • The last line of this last stanza is also sometimes rendered "This land is made for you and me."

Quotes about GuthrieEdit

Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit. ~ John Steinbeck
  • Woody Guthrie was what folks who don't believe in anything would call an anomaly. Admittedly, the intersection of space and time at the corner of July 14, 1912, and Okemah, Oklahoma, was a long shot to produce anything like a national treasure.
    Woody was born in one of the most desolate places in America, just in time to come of age in the worst period in our history. ... He became the living embodiment of everything a people's revolution is supposed to be about: that working people have dignity, intelligence and value above and beyond the market's demand for their labor. ... For me personally, Woody is my hero of heroes and the only person on earth that I will go to my grave regretting that I never met.
  • Now they sing out his praises on every distant shore,
    But so few remember what he was fightin' for.

    Oh why sing the songs and forget about the aim,
    He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same?
    And now he's bound for a glory all his own,
    And now he's bound for glory.
    • Phil Ochs in "Bound For Glory (The Story of Woody Guthrie)" (1963).
  • I remember the night he wrote the song "Tom Joad." He said, "Pete, do you know where I can get a typewriter?"
    I said, "I'm staying with someone who has one."
    "Well, I got to write a ballad," he said. "I don't usually write ballads to order, but Victor wants me to do a whole album of Dust Bowl songs, and they say they want one about Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath." ... Woody had a half-gallon jug of wine with him, sat down and started typing away. He would stand up every few seconds and test out a verse on his guitar and sit down and type some more. About one o'clock my friend and I got so sleepy we couldn't stay awake. In the morning we found Woody curled up on the floor under the table; the half gallon of wine was almost empty and the completed ballad was sitting near the typewriter.
    And it is one of his masterpieces.
    • Pete Seeger in The Incompleat Folksinger (1972), p. 44.
  • We must look beyond the songs to find the full importance of Woody Guthrie. As a song-maker, he has earned the stature he deserves. But his reputation as a writer, poet and philosopher is still underground and must he brought into the light. When his songs, poems, and essays are studied in our American literature classes, this omission may be righted.
    • Robert Shelton, in his introduction to Born To Win (1967) by Woody Guthrie.
  • Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.
    • John Steinbeck; as quoted in Woody Guthrie: A Life (1981) by Joe Klein, p. 160.
  • Of course I remember when I was a little kid, I started writing my songs, my dad took me aside one time, and said "Arlo, you know if you can't be great, it's better to belong." I'm still thinking about that.
    • Arlo Guthrie; spoken during the recording of the 40th Anniversary performance of Alice's Restaurant. (Partly a pun in how Alice's Restaurant is nearly a 20 minutes or longer each time Arlo performs it.).

External linksEdit

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Commons
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: