Woody Guthrie

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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 LeadbellyLeadbelly,
nickname of Huddie William Ledbetter,
1885–1949, American singer, b. Mooringsport, La. While wandering through Louisiana and Texas, he earned a living by playing the guitar for dances.
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, Pete SeegerSeeger, Pete
(Peter Seeger), 1919–2014, American folksinger, composer, and environmentalist, b. New York City. Seeger, a son of musicologist Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Edson Seeger, stepson of composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, and nephew of poet Alan Seeger, left
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, and Ramblin Jack Elliott, Guthrie became an iconic figure in American folk music, exerting great influence on younger performers, notably Bob DylanDylan, Bob
, 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing
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 and Bruce SpringsteenSpringsteen, Bruce Frederick,
1949–, American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, nicknamed "The Boss," b. Long Branch, N.J. Springsteen established himself as a singer and songwriter, as well as a stage showman, while playing in bands in cities along the shore of the NE
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. 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).

Bibliography

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).