Biography of Modern Music Composer Woody Guthrie Part 1

About the famous country musician and composer Woody Guthrie, his history and biography.

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

I hate a song that makes you think that you're 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 either too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling.

I am out to fight those kinds of 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 how hard it's run you down and rolled over you, 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 I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.--Woody Guthrie, quoted by Robert Shelton in booklet accompanying Woody Guthrie Library of Congress Recordings.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Okla., to Charles and Nora Guthrie. His sister Clara was 7 years older than he was and his brother Roy about 2 years younger than Clara. Okemah was a farming town that had had an oil boom for a few years. It had about an equal number of Indians, blacks, and whites doing their trading there.

Our family was sort of divided up into 2 sides: Mama taught us kids to sing the old songs and told us long stories about each ballad; and in her own way she told us over and over to always try and see the world from the other fellow's side. Meanwhile Papa bought us all kinds of exercising rods and stretchers, and kept piles of kids boxing and wrestling out in the front yard; and taught us never and never to allow any earthly human to scare us, bully us, or run it over us.

Woody's mother could not take the life that her husband had to lead in order to make his living--the fights and the high-pressure dealing. Her world came to look crazy, and although Woody describes her with great compassion, his sadness for her and for himself is apparent: "There was a feeling in me that I had been hunting for the bigger part of my life. A wide-open feeling that she was just like any other boy's mama." Later, when Woody's illness was diagnosed as Huntington's chorea, an incurable degenerative nerve disease, it could be seen in retrospect that this was what his mother had been afflicted with. At the time she only seemed strange.

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