An American Troubadour – Woody Guthrie

By | Jul 14, 2010

When doing a google search on the term ‘An American Troubadour’ names such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and even Don McLean show up on the first page. Woody Guthrie, one of the first and perhaps also one of the best of the American Troubadours, was born in Okemah, Oklahoma on July 14, 1912.

He had rough youth with his sister Clara dieing in a fire and his mother going through a period of what now is termed degenerative neurological disease, possibly Parkinson’s Disease. Even though he didn’t spend much time in school he read constantly, perhaps some of these books were about psychology.

Will Geer, the actor who many remember as Grandpa Walton, was a lifelong friend to Guthrie. They met during the 1930’s in California when like many others Guthrie left the dust bowl for California. During this stage he sang when he could, did whatever work that was available and listened to the tales of the working man.

In February 1940 after hearing once again what he felt was the overplayed God Bless America on the Kate Smith radio show, he sat down to write his most well known song, This Land is Your Land. It wasn’t until four years later that the song was first recorded and not until the 1950’s that is was issued as sheet music.

Even though he is best remembered as a song writer, he really was simply a poet, whose words were put to music. He also wrote Bound for Glory, a autobiography of his growing up in Oklahoma, Texas and his wayward travels.

When he died from complications from Huntington’s Disease on October 3, 1967 his songs were once again being sung by the folk artists of the era. Bob Dylan, an American Troubadour himself, considered Guthrie his hero.


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