The Museum of Musical Instruments (www.TheMoMI.org) presents the world's first virtual documentary exhibition devoted to Woody Guthrie, one of America's most-loved folk heros. Bound For Glory: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie is a comprehensive interactive exhibition that integrates history, music, photographs, essays, poems, letters and drawings to tell the remarkable story of the legendary Woody Guthrie (Exhibition Credits).
This exhibition is meant to be an online complement to the Smithsonian Institution's extraordinary traveling exhibition: This Land Is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie. It also includes informative articles and reviews of the Smithsonian production. The Smithsonian traveling Guthrie exhibition premiered June 1999 at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles and is scheduled to stop at other major institutions and museums across the country through 2002 (Woody Guthrie Traveling Exhibition Schedule). Nora Guthrie, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Archives, served as exhibition curator on the project along with Marquette Folley, the Smithsonian SITES project director.
TheMoMI.org extends its deepest thanks to the Smithsonian Institution and the Woody Guthrie Archives for their generous contributions of materials and guidance to make this online documentary a reality.
Woody's prolific repertoire includes over 3,000 songs such as "This Land Is Your Land," "Red Wine," "Jesus Christ," "Pastures of Plenty," and "Do-Re-Me." In Guthrie's autobiography, Bound For Glory, Pete Seeger said, "His songs are deceptively simple. Only after they have become part of your life do you realize how great they are. Any damn fool can get complicated. It takes genius to attain simplicity." Guthrie wrote and performed a wide variety of songs: cowboy serenades, mountain ballads, religious music, hymns, blues, traditional songs, work chants, and songs of protest. He sang about love and war, natural disasters, fascism, and injustice. He even made songs for children. Woody played guitar, harmonica, and fiddle, recorded hundreds of songs, and appeared on stage and radio. His work influenced a generation of artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jack Kerouac, Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, and many others.
An artist who wore many hats, Guthrie was a journalist, activist, entertainer, poet, painter, bohemian, political subversive, and American hero. He studied science, economics, politics, and religion; wrote four novels and a column for the Communist Daily Worker; and played at political rallies and workers' strikes. Guthrie sang about the struggles of the nation's displaced, disenfranchised, overworked, and underpaid people. A traveling hobo who drifted across the country, Guthrie acquired down-to-earth wisdom from his experiences, which he used to help shape the social consciousness of American culture:
"…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…"
On the road, Woody listened to many stories of people's struggles, and he was moved by what he saw. He met homeless Dust Bowl refugees and the courageous people of the "promised land" who were exploited and humiliated by growers and landowners. By writing songs that touched their souls and restored their pride and confidence, Guthrie helped bring dignity back into their lives.
While hitchhiking his way to New York City in the bitter cold of winter in 1940, Guthrie was inspired to write "This Land Is Your Land." The song, which proclaimed that "this land was meant for you and me," was Guthrie's response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Recently, CNN Entertainment listed "This Land Is Your Land" in the Number Three position of their Top Ten list of the most popular 20th century American songs.
In March of 1940, Alan Lomax recorded three hours of music and conversation with Woody Guthrie for The Library of Congress. These historic recordings reveal the essence of this extraordinary American folk legend.
Guthrie believed in the free flow of information. He generously shared the songs that he sang and made his lyrics available to anyone who asked. According to Pete Seeger, "When Woody Guthrie was singing hillbilly songs on a little Los Angeles radio station in the late 1930's, he used to mail out a small mimeographed songbook to listeners who wanted the words to his songs." On the bottom of one page appeared the following:
"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 ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."
During the paranoid post-World War II McCarthy Era, Guthrie was one of hundreds of artists and writers who were blacklisted by the House of Un-American Activities Committee for their left-leaning political beliefs. Despite the attempts by the government to censor and destroy his work, Guthrie's voice would not be silenced: