Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) was an American singer-songwriter whose folk music gave voice to people’s struggles and considered his songs as his weapon in the fight against injustice and hardship among many other things.
Woody Guthrie experienced enough tragedy and hard times to inspire thousands of songs. Alongside his passion to voice his own trials, Woody became a voice for more than just himself.He crisscrossed across America and made ends meet playing guitar and singing in saloons and work camps during the Great Depression. As he would follow his insatiable wanderlust, Guthrie would absorb certain ballads and styles of the folk style he heard on the road and would write song after song that reflected the struggles and good times of the ordinary people he would meet. Listeners responded immediately to Guthrie’s heartfelt, down-to-earth style.
In the mid-1930s, The Great Depression had already swept across the nation, and a drought had hit the plains of the United States. The prairie grasses had been over-plowed and the dust that collected would sometimes blot out the sun. From his experiences in the “Dust Bowl”, Woody had realized the power that music had to capture the core of individuals and the events and places he understood.
“In thinking back about this time, he wrote, ‘there on the Texas plains right in the dead center of the dust bowl, with the oil boom over and the wheat blowed out and the hard-working people just stumbling about, bothered with mortgages, debts, bills, sickness, worries of every blowing kind, I seen there was plenty to make up songs about.’” 1
Behind the simple song, a rich and complex personality that Guthrie instilled, still exudes. One of his first songs to reflect what he saw happening around him became one of his most famous songs. “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You”