Woody Guthrie, July 14 1912-October 3 1967
I'd planned to write something about this today when I heard Billy Bragg on Today earlier in the week, but in the end was writing it while listening to a wonderful Archive on 4 broadcast tonight. If they're going to make it available, it'll be at this link.
It seems strange to be celebrating the "100th birthday" of a man who was robbed of so much of a century of life (including a number of the years he was actually alive), due to Huntington's. and had so many hideous tragedies along the way, but it's certainly worth commemorating.
As a small child I remember my Dad playing "Take you riding in my car car" and "Hard Travelin'" on the banjo, and when I started listening to Dylan in my teens, of course, there was Woody.
Later on, I listened to music which was completely different, I thought - Billy Bragg, bard of the Thatcher era, evolved into thoughtful social commentator, and Bruce Springsteen, bellowing about the same period of Reaganomics and continually moving and learning.... But then, of course, Billy becomes the curator of the Woody Guthrie archive; and, of course, Springsteen stands with Pete Seeger and Seeger's grandson Tao Rodriguez to salute Obama (please, I pray you, don't click on the offered links; but do enjoy President-Elect Obama singing along at 3:18 or so) by singing This Land is Your Land.
I've no idea what Woody would think about all the Establishment recognition, given that he was once rejected from membership of the US Communist Party. But he wrote the stories of poor people having a hard time, and he passed that on to other songwriters who influenced my generation, and then influenced the next generation, via the magnificent Indigo Girls, if P¡nk's Dear Mr President is anything to go by (join in at 1:44 or so if you're not up to people you don't know congratulating each other)...
RIP Woody. Thanks for the songs and the fury.