Friday, 22 February 2013


I hate a song that makes you think that you are 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 too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. ... I am out to fight those 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 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.
Woody Guthrie, in a performance monologue
Woody Guthrie is probably one of the most famous and important names in American music. Along with Cisco Houston and Lead Belly, he was at the root of American folk music, and later inspired what is called the American folk music revival, serving as a mentor to singers Bob Dylan (a favourite of mine) and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.
What is interesting about Woody Guthrie is that he sang about the people and for the people. His protest songs criticized injustice, intolerance and inequality. His first album, Dust Bowl Ballads, reflects the situation of many Americans during the Great Depression: going from town to town, from farm to farm, working hard for a meager living, "with no home in this world anymore".
Oh, and he also hated fascists. Very much.

I leave you with a small biography.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (yes, he had the same name as the 28th President of the USA) was born on July 14th, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, to Nora Bell and Charles Edward Guthrie, a businessman actively involved in politics and Democratic candidate for the county office. His father was involved in the lynching of the African-Americans Laura and Lawrence Nelson. His mother suffered from Huntington’s disease and was later committed to the Hospital for the Insane. From an early age, Guthrie and his siblings had had to rely on his older brother Roy for support. When he was 14, Woody had to beg meals and sleep at friends’ homes.
Those were, as Dickens would put it, hard times. He had anything but an idyllic childhood. But it was also when he was 14 years old that Woody Guthrie bought his first harmonica, and learned to “play by ear” old ballads and traditional English songs. Although he did not finish high school, he was an avid reader and once wrote a manuscript summarizing everything he had read about Psychology (seriously!).
He traveled a lot in his life. In the 30s, he left his wife and joined many other Okies who went to look for work in California. Around that time, he began singing in radio shows, writing and performing protest songs such as Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues and I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore. Now in New York, and tired of the radio playing Irving Berlin’s God Bless America constantly as nationalist propaganda, Woody Guthrie wrote the song for which he would become famous for decades to come: This Land Is Your Land. Feeling too restricted with the radio rules, and disgruntled with New York, Guthrie and his family moved to Washington, only to come back later as a member of the Almanac Singers, a group created by Pete Seeger, performing “hootenanny” shows (kind of like folk-singing jam sessions).
During WWII, Guthrie served in the US Merchant Marine as a mess man and dishwasher, although he preferred to fight fascism with songs and poems. He would afterwards be dismissed due to his association with Communism and then be drafted into the U.S.Army. In 1952, he was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, the same as his mother. He got married for the third time and had a daughter. Then he hurt his arm in a campfire accident, and was no longer able to play the guitar. Later on, he was hospitalized in several institutions. Bob Dylan visited him at Brooklyn State Hospital and sang to him, when Guthrie recognized him. Woody Guthrie passed away on October 3rd 1967 due to complications of Huntington’s disease.
Bob Dylan would later say of Guthrie: "The songs themselves were really beyond category. They had the infinite sweep of humanity in them."
All You Fascists Bound To Lose (
I Ain't Got No Home In This World Anymore (

Don't forget to be awesome,
Sara Santos.

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