Woody Guthrie Edit Profile
Despite a shortened high school education and no formal musical training, Guthrie's eager reading and focus on music supported him throughout his life.
Guthrie's mother became ill with Huntington's chorea (a gradual, fatal disease of the nervous system), which she passed on to Guthrie.
Virtually orphaned at the age of fourteen, with his family falling apart, Guthrie developed a roaming way of life that he never entirely abandoned.
In the course of Guthrie's travels he learned to perform folk songs, first those of others but later his own.
He survived with odd jobs in settings as varied as hobo camps and barbershops.
In Texas Woody was given his first and only guitar.
With a few chords under his belt he began writing songs, some to old tunes and some to new ones.
In 1940 he arrived in New York City and was discovered by Alan Lomax, assistant director of the Archive of Folk Songs of the Library of Congress.
(A ballad is a song that tells a story. )
Though they did not sell, the ballads were to have a lasting influence.
A witness to Hoovervilles (clusters of homeless people living in cardboard box villages named after President Herbert Hoover [1874–1964] who had promised better times) and migrant camps (temporary housing for families who get paid to harvest crops and move frequently to follow the harvest), Woody was drawn to people with a social conscience (an awareness of less fortunate members of society).
They dissolved within a year.
In addition, he was drafted into service anyway.
Upon his discharge from the army in 1946 he joined People's Songs, another radical (extreme) musical association. It also failed because of the Communist connection, which was even more offensive during the Cold War (1945–89; a struggle for world power between the United States and the Soviet Union).
Pete Seeger organized a folk-singing group called The Weavers in 1948, and for several years it produced one hit record after another.
Though Guthrie was not a Weaver, their success helped his music.
In 1952 he was diagnosed with Huntington's chorea.
Guthrie and The Weavers were responsible for folk music's brief popularity in the late 1946 and early 1956, and they influenced the greater following it developed ten years later.
Though folk music became less popular, it continued to exist, and Guthrie's legacy was very much a part of it.
The year 2001 brought a revival of folk music mania after the release of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
, a movie set in the 19306 that was rich with folk and hill music. Guthrie's legendary influence on folk music is hard to assess.
He also acquired permanent ties to the Communist Party (a political party that promotes a society in which all goods and services are divided equally between the people).