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Woody Guthrie

About Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie (14 July 1912 – 3 October 1967) was an American singer-songwriter who wrote hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs. His best-known work is “This Land Is Your Land.”

Born in Okemah, Oklahoma, life was tough to begin with, but they went bust in the Great Depression. Woody headed out on his own with a promise to send whatever money he could back home to his wife and family. By 1935, things had gone from bad to worse with the Great Dust Storm, so Woody followed U.S. Route 66 west, looking for a way to support his family, who remained back in Pampa, TX.

Pennyless and hungry, Woody hitchhiked, rode freight trains, and even walked part of the way to California. He developed a love for traveling the open road, and it became his lifelong M.O.

In 1956, more than 20 years after he set out on the road, he became case number 65935 at the Greystone Park Hospital in Morris Plains, NY. He’d been found wandering the highways by police. He was just 43 years old. The doctor’s diagnosed Guthrie with schizophrenia, but later changed it to Huntington’s disease, which destroys mental and motor abilities. Woody Guthrie died in 1967 in Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, NY, just about the same time his son, Arlo release his first hit, “Alice’s Restaurant”.

Many artists have named him as a major influence on their work, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Robert Hunter, Harry Chapin, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, Jay Farrar and Bob Weir. That list is quite a compliment.

The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is held in Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma in July every year, on the weekend closest to his birth date.