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Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (11) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 14 July 1912Okemah, Oklahoma, USA
Date of Death 4 October 1967Queens, New York City, New York, USA  (Huntington's disease)
Birth NameWoodrow Wilson Guthrie
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Charley and Nora Guthrie named their son after the Democrat elected president that year. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie knew hard times as a youngster (his house burned down, his sister Clara burned to death, his father's small-town business and political careers never went anywhere, his mother suffered from undiagnosed Huntington's Disease and was declared insane), but he enjoyed performing (dancing, playing harmonica, writing songs) and learning (he read voraciously in the public library). In 1933 he married Mary Jennings, five years his junior, with whom he would have three children. In 1935 he joined the Oakies and Arkies driven to California by the Dust Bowl. His songs went from describing the tragedy of the migrants to urging their unionization. Though he wrote a column for the Weekly People, he never joined the Communist Party. When Will Geer got a part in the play "Tobacco Road" he invited Woody to join him in New York where he met Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Leadbelly, Cisco Houston. He was commissioned to write songs for a never-completed documentary on Washington State's Grand Coulee Dam, and it was in the Pacific Northwest that his family left him. Back in New York in 1940, Woody joined Pete Seeger's Alamanc Singers and married Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia. His autobiography, Bound for Glory, was published in 1943. He served in the Merchant Marine in World War II, and three ships were torpedoed from under him. In 1947 his and Marjorie's daughter, Cathy, was burned to death in an apartment fire. They had three more children: Arlo, Joady and Nora. In 1953 he married for a third time, to Anneke Van Kirk. They had a child, Lorinna Lynn Guthrie. When Anneke and Guthrie divorced, their daughter was adopted by a couple they knew, and did not have any further contact with Guthrie. Lorinna died prematurely (at age 19) in 1973, in a car accident in California.

In the 1950s he experienced bouts of irrational behavior and was often unable to play his guitar; his condition was ultimately diagnosed as Huntington's Disease. The rest of that decade and into the 1960s a new generation, notably including Bob Dylan, began to discover and play his music, adapting some of it to the new Civil Rights movement.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (3)

Anneke Van Kirk (2 December 1953 - 1956) (divorced) (1 child)
Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia (13 November 1945 - 1953) (divorced) (4 children)
Mary Jennings (28 October 1933 - 1940) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Had "This machine Kills fascists" inscribed on his guitar
Uplifting songs about working-class people

Trivia (11)

Father of Arlo Guthrie
He and Marjorie had four children. Cathy (died aged 4 in a fire) Arlo Guthrie, Joady (named for Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Nora.
His daughter, Nora, recently invited English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg to look through the family archives, especially all the thousands of song lyrics that Woody had left in his notebooks. Billy, together with American country band Wilco, put them to music and recorded them for the album Mermaid Avenue.
He was cremated and his ashes were scattered off Coney Island. The family scattered the ashes of Marjorie in the same place when she died.
Was featured in 1998 on a 32-cent U.S. postage stamp in the Legends of Folk Singers stamp series.
Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (under the category Early Influences) in 1988.
February 22, 1954: daughter: Lorinna Lynn Guthrie, with Van Kirk.
Was Bob Dylan's idol and mentor. Dylan visited him many times in the hospital in the last years of his life, and modeled his own folk-writing style after Guthrie's. The first Dylan-written song ever released was a tribute to his hero, 'Song to Woody', which appeared on his self-titled 1962 debut album.
His guitar was inscribed with the words, "This machine kills fascists."
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Although he was named after Pres. Woodrow Wilson, his political views were the polar opposite of Wilson's. Wilson was anti-labor and anti-communist, while Guthrie was ardently pro-labor and favored ideas similar to what the Communist Party supported (although the Communist Party refused to admit him due to his refusal to abandon his religious faith).

Personal Quotes (4)

Working people have always known that songs are a good way to say what you got to say about work, wages, school, cats, love, marriage, keeping house, or doctor bills. If the fight gets hot, the songs get hotter. If the going gets tough, the songs get tougher.
[When asked why he'd scrawled "This Machine Kills Fascists" across the front of his guitar] Well, you see this guitar makes me feel like beatin' the Fascists, and then that makes me sing how much I hate 'em. When I sing for a bunch of folks, folks workin', for soliders, sailors, seamen, that sort of makes all of us whip it up a little. Then we all get to feelin' a little more like beatin' 'em, and 'course if a fascist then just sort of happens to get in our way, he just naturally comes out loser. That's all.
I hate a song that makes you think that you're not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter how hard it's run you down and rolled over you, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.
[from a scribbled lyric discovered in a notebook in his archives] I am the works, the whole works. The saint, the sinner, the drinker, the thinker.

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