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Guthrie, Woodrow Wilson 'Woody'

Song To Woody / Bob Dylan / 1962

Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
'Bout a funny ol' world that's a-comin' along.
Seems sick an' it's hungry, it's tired an' it's torn,
It looks like it's a-dyin' an' it's hardly been born.


Woody had had his greatest influence [on] Bob Dylan, Jack Elliott and other early Sixties folkies. No wonder the greatest American composer of our era, Bob Dylan, began his career in total, awestruck emulation of Guthrie.

Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 11:26:28 -0500
From: "Andreas, Margaret A" (U0A75@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU)
Subject: Woody Guthrie/Pittsburgh

Fellow travellers,

Here's a review of the great play about Woody's life that's will be on the road very soon....

-----------------------begin article---------------

>From Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Dec. 1, 1995
(All in parentheses is by Marguerita)


by Tony Norman (who, BTW, is a mega-Dylan fan)

Folksinger Woody Guthrie died in 1967, four years after JFK and a
year before Martin and Bobby's names were added to our national
martyr sweepstakes.

"Woody Guthrie's American Song," opening today for previews at
City Theatre, reminds us why Guthrie's music was as instrumental
to this country's moral development as King's marches and the
Kennedy's leadership style.

As the author of such uniquely American chronicles as "This Land
is Your Land," "Pastures of Plenty," "Union Maid," "Bound for
Glory," and "I Ain't Got No Home," Guthrie was privy to both the
shame and the glory of our experience as a deeply conflicted
people searching for secular and spiritual redemption.

But instead of layering our dense national mythology with yet
another patina of lies and flattery, Guthrie took his role as
artist and cultural subversive seriously enough to work gently at
undermining our illusions with songs that mirrored our

Conceived and directed by Peter Glazer, the son of folk musician
and Guthrie contemporary Tom Glazer, "American Song" harks back
to an era before popular music was compromised by the tyranny of
the image.

Glazer's musical survey of Guthrie's life reminds us there was
once a value given to paying attention to things--a time when
acoustic-based music wasn't equated with boring.

"[Audiences] once knew that the brilliance of a turn of phrase
meant something more than a stupendous presentation," said
Glazer, who's based in the Bay Area.

"Woody understood a way of talking about and seeing this country
with its virtues and troubles.  He understood what made America
tick and represented it in an unthreatening, poetic and gritty
way.  You couldn't help getting caught up in it."

Guthrie's spiritual heir, Bob Dylan, sat at his bedside in an
East Orange, N.J. hospital in the early '60s, absorbing as much
as he could from his trembling mentor before launching what would
become a folk revival that would eventually flower into a
rock'n'roll revolution.

Despite Guthrie's stark realism, his Dust Bowl narratives always
manage to strike a romantic chord with young people encountering
the troubadour for the first time.  And while Guthrie's politics
aren't always taken to heart by his followers, his style is
endlessly appropriated by musicians, writers and other artists
who hunger for a veneer of proletarian authenticity.

Arena icon Bruce Springsteen openly evokes Guthrie's spirit with
solo-acoustic efforts like "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom
Joad," his latest trip into the Steinbeckian milieu.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain worshipped Guthrie's fellow traveler
William "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, an appreciation that foreshadowed
the intriguing synthesis of acoustic and grunge that is "Nirvana
Unplugged in New York."

Struck down at 43 by Huntington's chorea, a degenerative
neurological disease that kept him far from the crossroads of the
American experience he breathed the way we breathe air, Guthrie
spent the last 12 years of his life bedridden and in pain.

Scholars of American folklore and folk music estimate that
Guthrie composed and performed as many as 1,000 songs before the
hereditary disorder forced him off the roads boxcars and tramp
steamers that provided a context for his most memorable songs.

"Woody was not dogmatic and I didn't want the show to be
dogmatic," Glazer said of the play he's lived with in various
incarnations since 1988.

"I've always been concerned about the same sort of things Woody
was...I was trying to find projects that interested me."

As a child of the '60s and the son of parents who were deeply
involved in the labor movement, Glazer's political instincts have
remained consistently with the downtrodden, though he quickly
adds it isn't a litmus test for his art.

While writing "Woody Guthrie's American Song," in the late '80s,
when unbridled greed was rampant, Glazer knew the material would
find a sympathetic audience even though he didn't conceive it was
a "protest piece" against Reaganomics per se.

"Woody's material is seductive in any time," Glazer said.
"It resonated in its moment many decades ago as well as the late
'80s.  It isn't any less seductive given the climate it appears
in, and that's its beauty."

Basing the musical on Guthrie's prose writings and autobiography,
"Bound for Glory," Glazer leaned heavily on the folk singer's
humor and humanism without becoming unduly preoccupied with his
politics.  "I didn't want to strip it of politics," he said, "but
I didn't want the audience to forget they were dealing with
theatrical entertainment [either]."

The musical uses old photographs projected on backdrops, Glazer
says, because "I was careful to make sure audiences knew we were
dealing with a real place and time.  I didn't want people to
dismiss the landscape Woody thrived in as being immaterial to the

"American Song," which has been staged in theaters from Chicago
to Milford, N.H., is carried along by a five-person ensemble and
three backup musicians.

Maria Becoates-Bey, Lawrence Bullock, D.C. Fitzgerald, Richard
Glover and Myrna Paris play a variety of roles and take turns
delivering Guthrie's dialogue in the first person.

The production features each actor prominently in solos
throughout the production with skillful and sensitive
explorations of the folk singer's world through his songs.

"One of the wonderful things about working with new people is
watching a cast get caught up in the material," Glazer said,
"It's a constant reminder of how remarkable Woody's writing was."

Some actors, like Paris and Fitzgerald, have roots in the folk
music scene and were already familiar with Guthrie's music;
Becoates-Bey was familiar with only a song or two before she was
cast in the production.

"This is the hardest kind of show for me to do because it isn't a
straight-up musical.  It's narration about someone's life, but
you're trying to act and put everything into a scene and not make
it look staged," Becoates-Bey says.

"I like this production because of the kind of person Woody was.
His music is uplifting and inspiring because he focused on
important things."

"People who come into the show with minimal reference to Guthrie
mirror the experience of the audience," Glazer said, "I think
this keeps me honest as the director because I want to see the
material resonate with her."

"The early rehearsals were particularly interesting," says Paris,
an operatically trained singer and the veteran of several folk-
music groups in the '60s and early '70s.  "It's interesting how
Peter worked in two different women into the show.  He could have
made a one-man show, but he felt that would have been too

Glazer expects this production of "Woody Guthrie's American Song"
to go over especially well with those who remember Guthrie and
understand his impact, but he hopes it spreads a much wider net.

"The most exciting and difficult audience is young people because
the music on MTV is so slick and dark," Glazer said, "Many young
people have a predisposition against folk music.  Fortunately
this show has something to say to this generation."

At the end of the Pittsburgh run, Glazer and the entire cast will
take the production on the road for a national tour until March.

---------------------end of article--------------------
BTW, I went to school with DC Fitzgerald at Indiana University of
Pennsylvania.  Back in the late 60s he was the star of the coffee
house circuit at the _Grotto_ and the _Tradewinds_ there.  He was
(and IS) great!!!

Woody Guthrie - David Arkush Woody Guthrie's home town is divided on paying him homage The Unquiet Tomb Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital

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