The Life, Music and Thought of Woody Guthrie: A Critical Appraisal, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Life, Music and Thought of Woody Guthrie

A Critical Appraisal, 1st Edition

Edited by John S. Partington


216 pages

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Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-67) has had an immense impact on popular culture throughout the world. His folk music brought traditional song from the rural communities of the American southwest to the urban American listener and, through the global influence of American culture, to listeners and musicians alike throughout Europe and the Americas. Similarly, his use of music as a medium of social and political protest has created a new strategy for campaigners in many countries. But Guthrie's music was only one aspect of his multifaceted life. His labour-union activism helped embolden the American working class, and united such distinct groups as the rural poor, the urban proletariat, merchant seamen and military draftees, contributing to the general call for workers' rights during the 1930s and 1940s. As well as penning hundreds of songs (both recorded and unrecorded), Guthrie was also a prolific writer of non-sung prose, writing regularly for the American communist press, producing volumes of autobiographical writings and writing hundreds of letters to family, friends and public figures. Furthermore, beyond music Guthrie also expressed his creative talents through his numerous pen-and-ink sketches, a number of paintings and occasional forays into poetry. This collection provides a rigorous examination of Guthrie's cultural significance and an evaluation of both his contemporary and posthumous impact on American culture and international folk-culture. The volume utilizes the rich resources presented by the Woody Guthrie Foundation.


Classified as 'Research Essential' by Baker & Taylor YBP Library Services A Yankee Book Peddler UK Core Title for 2011 'Making excellent use of material from the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives in New York, this book examines Woody’s image, his songwriting, his politics and his friendships. In the process, a few myths are questioned and some new dimensions of his life and work are revealed. The result is a welcome portrait of Woody as a twentieth century figure with much to offer to the twenty-first. The book serves as an excellent introduction to Guthrie’s work as well as providing unexpected perspectives even for those of us who thought we knew all about him.' Dave Laing, Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool, UK '… a welcome addition to the scholarly literature. It should especially interest students of American folk music and American culture… Recommended.' Choice 'The contributors to this fantastic edited volume effectively answer the questions posed by Jorge Arévalo Mateus in the foreword: "What is the source of Guthrie's enduring cultural value? Why are artists and academics alike drawn to the mythology and reality of his life and times?". Using recent and traditional analytical frameworks from a variety of disciplines, these scholars unpack Guthrie's expressive practices, iconicity, and political aesthetics. This volume ushers in a new generation of scholarship in "Guthrie Studies". This book would be helpful in both undergraduate classes and graduate seminars. Classes that focus on the formation of artist identities, twentieth-century American popular music, the Dust Bowl, music and migration, and Bob Dylan would find many articles in this volume enlightening.' Journal of Folklore Research 'In every sense an excellent book, exciting, surprising and enlightening!' Folker ’This collection of essays contains a considerable wealth of information about Woody Guthrie: his music, his political principles, and his life and work

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface, John S. Partington; Foreword, Jorge Arévalo Mateus; Part I 'All You Can Write Is What You See': Woody Guthrie's Songs as Diagnosis and Cure: 'Pastures of plenty'; Woody Guthrie and the New Deal, Richard Nate; 'There's a better world a-coming': resolving the tension between the urban and rural visions in the writings of Woody Guthrie, John S. Partington; Woody Guthrie and the cultural front, Will Kaufman; Playing legend maker: Woody Guthrie's 'Jackhammer John', Mark Allan Jackson; 'Words to shoot back at you': Woody Guthrie's 'war' against German Fascism, Martin Butler. Part II Creating an Icon: The (Self-)Imaging of Woody Guthrie: 'Always on the go': the figure of the hobo in the songs and writings of Woody Guthrie, Martin Butler; 'Hard travelin': constructing Woody Guthrie's dust bowl legacy, Jeff Morgan; Woody Guthrie, aka 'the guy who wrote This Land is Your Land', Frank Erik Pointner. Part III Partnering and Siring: Woody Guthrie in Comparative Perspective: Will Geer and Woody Guthrie: a folk music friendship, Ronald D. Cohen; The performer and the promoter, Ed Cray; Good man, honest man: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and the role of the folk outlaw, D.A. Carpenter; Bibliography; Index.

About the Editor

John S. Partington has published five books, including Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H.G. Wells (Ashgate, 2003), H.G. Wells in Nature, 1893-1946: A Reception Reader (2008) and The Reception of H.G. Wells in Europe (2005). His special interest is in political biography, having published on George Orwell, Phoebe Cusden, Lorenzo Quelch, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and Clara Zetkin. He is currently researching the reception and influence of Clara Zetkin in Britain.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Individual Composer & Musician