This past week, the legendary populist troubadour Woody Guthrie would have turned 104. Guthrie, best known for his iconic song “This Land Is Your Land,” has had as profound an influence as any musician in US, and perhaps world, history.
Born on July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, Guthrie composed some of the most powerful protest songs ever written and became a decisive influence on innumerable musicians, most famously Bob Dylan. The “People’s Bard” is rightly remembered as a transformative musician and song writer whose political activism and consistent advocacy for civil rights, racial justice, and economic equality, especially at the height of McCarthyism, inspired many others to stand tall and fight back. He scrawled “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar, and he meant it.
This movement moment we’re in isn’t a bad time to reclaim Guthrie’s legacy for a new generation pushing hard on many of the same issues he spent his life championing. The videos below, all covers, give some sense of both the breadth of Guthrie’s work and the depth of his influence.
1. Bound for Glory performed by Tom Morello, Graham Nash, Nora Guthrie, Jack Elliott, Jackson Browne, and friends
2. Plane Wreck/Deportees performed by Joan Baez
3. Pastures of Plenty performed by Odetta
4. This Land is Your Land performed by Bruce Springsteen
5. Union Maid performed by Billy Bragg & Dar Wlliams
6. Do Re Mi performed by Ry Cooder
7. Pretty Boy Floyd performed by The Byrds
8. Hard Travelin’ performed by Bob Dylan
9. Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad performed by the Grateful Dead
10. The Ludlow Massacre performed by Christy Moore
Woody wrote the lyrics to this song and many years later, Jeff Tweedy added the music as part of Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue collaboration with Billy Bragg.
At My Window Sad and Lonely performed by Wilco & Billy Bragg
Honorable Mention: “Mail Myself to You,” “Union Burying Ground,” “Jesus Christ,” “Please Mr. Roosevelt,” “Song of the Grand Coulee Dam.”