Writing America's Songs
Routledge – 2013 – 176 pages
Series: Routledge Historical Americans
Woody Guthrie is the most famous and influential folk music composer and performer in the history of the United States. His most popular song, "This Land is Your Land" has become the country's unofficial national anthem, known to every school child since the 1960s. His influence exceeded the realm of American music, reaching American politics. Guthrie’s music became the soundtrack to the Great Depression, and iconic of the Dust Bowl migrants. Guthrie and his music came to represent those disenfranchised people who remained committed to making better lives for themselves through the promise of the American Dream.
Here, in a short, accessible biography, bolstered with primary documents, including letters, autobiographical excerpts, and reflections by Pete Seeger, Cohen introduces Guthrie’s life and music influence to students of American history and culture.
"Clearly written, packed with piquant quotations, and unafraid of detailing the complexities and contradictions of this rambling life, this fine biography is not only the best short introduction to the life and music of Woody Guthrie; it is the most succinct and direct examination of Guthrie's contribution to the dream-lyric of America." - Barry Shank, Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University
"Ron Cohen has a knowledge and love of American folk music that can be felt on nearly every page of this wonderfully concise biography of Woody Guthrie. Cohen artfully captures Guthrie's spirit in his prose and sheds new light on familiar themes and songs. A great read!" - Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the Grammy Museum
"Upon the celebration of the centennial of Woody Guthrie's birth there will be a new visitation to the bard's life and works. In spite of his global fame little is actually known by the average person about the man and his career and life. Woody Guthrie fills in the blanks. I suggest you put on some music and learn with Cohen's new book while you have your own Woody Guthrie birthday party." - Country Joe McDonald, Singer/Songwriter
Chapter 1: The Early Years
Chapter 2: The Postwar Years
Chapter 3: Woody’s Rediscovery and Death
Chapter 4: Woody’s Legacy
Ron Cohen is Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, Northwest. He is the author of Folk Music: The Basics (Routledge, 2006).