Searching for Woody Guthrie

Searching for Woody Guthrie

A Personal Exploration of the Folk Singer, His Music, and His Politics

Book - 2020
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Born in the summer of 1912, Woody Guthrie remains one of the most significant figures in American folk music to this day. While most Americans know his iconic anthem &;This Land Is Your Land,&; surprisingly few understand Guthrie&;s place in the greater context of American radicalism and protest in the 1930s and beyond.
In Searching for Woody Guthrie, Ron Briley embarks on a chronological exploration of Guthrie&;s music in the vein of American radicalism and civil rights. Briley begins this journey with an overview of five key periods in Guthrie&;s life and, in the chapters that follow, analyzes his political ideas through primary and secondary source materials.
While numerous biographies on Woody Guthrie exist&;including Guthrie&;s own 1943 autobiography&;this book takes a different approach. Less biographical and more thematic in nature, Searching for Woody Guthrie centers around Guthrie&;s faith in the common working people of America, bringing together People&;s Daily World &;Woody Sez&; newspaper columns, Guthrie centennial secondary source texts, research in the Woody Guthrie Archives, and Briley&;s own personal reflections to present a narrative that is at once personal to the author and relatable to America&;s rural working class.

Interlacing Guthrie&;s music with his own geographic and economic background, Briley presents an original and eloquent chronology of Guthrie&;s life and work in what amounts to a compelling new case for why that work, more than fifty years after Guthrie&;s death, continues to leave its mark.

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Briley, an author and former history teacher, explores the life, music, and politics of Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) through various themes. He discusses the attempt to mainstream Guthrie in the film Bound for Glory, then five key periods of Guthrie's life story: his time in California and New York City and his political ideas from the perspective of his "Woody Sez" column for the People's Daily World and the Daily Worker, his time in the Pacific Northwest working for the Bonneville Power Administration, his service in the Merchant Marine during World War II and beliefs related to the anti-fascist struggle, and his opposition to the Korean War. He also examines Guthrie’s ideas on Jesus, his message of love, and Christian socialism; the influence of the outlaw tradition on Guthrie; his support for unionism; his views on sexuality and gender-equality; and his music and recordings, including Dust Bowl Ballads, Struggle, and Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti, as well as his impact on the later musicians, including his son Arlo, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Annotation ©2020 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Knoxville :, The University of Tennessee Press,, [2020]
Edition: First edition
Description: xii, 388 pages ; 23 cm
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9781621905332
Branch Call Number: 782.42162 Gut


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