Woody Guthrie Turns One-hundred: This Land Is Still Your Land
What: It’s Been Good to Know You: A Centennial Celebration of Woody Guthrie’s Legacy (music and lectures)
When: 2012-09-06 - 2012-09-07
Legendary American folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie will be the focus of a two-day centennial celebration Thursday and Friday, September 6 and 7 at locations around the area.
Guthrie was a prolific artist who wrote thousands of songs during his career, among them the well-known folk standard “This Land Is Your Land.” He often wrote politically charged music centering around working-class values and anti-fascist sentiments, and was a member of the New York-based protest group the Almanac Singers alongside Pete Seeger in the early 1940s. Guthrie’s work inspired generations of later musicians, including Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Jeff Tweedy, and Billy Bragg.
SIU history professor Robbie Lieberman says Guthrie’s work, and that of his folk contemporaries, cannot be underestimated in terms of its impact on the politically conscious music of later generations.
“My own interest is in the sort of community that he sang with,” Lieberman says, “and I think what people need to know that’s maybe the most important is that those people, not just Guthrie but Pete Seeger and a host of others, were the ones who brought social criticism to popular music. So you don’t get people like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello and so many others without Woody Guthrie.... There had been other people who had stood up for the oppressed like they did and hated what capitalism did to people and wanted to speak for those people. But before that group in the thirties, forties, fifties, those were sort of songs of the left, and they brought them to a much wider audience.”
David Cochran, history professor at John A. Logan College, sees many cultural and sociopolitical dimensions to Guthrie and his work, but they are deeply rooted in his role as a musician.
“I would say that Woody as a social figure grew out of his music, and they became inseparable,” he says. “Woody was raised on all kinds of musical and oral traditions, everything from cowboy songs and hillbilly songs and outlaw ballads and church hymns to tall tales, and so he very literately spoke the language of the people. He combined that with a social and political consciousness, sort of grown out of his experiences travelling, and so two of them are interconnected.”
The centennial celebration will kick off Thursday, September 6 at 9:30 a.m. in the Crisp Room at John A. Logan with Bucky Halker’s I Don’t Want Your Millions: Labor Protest Songs and American Society, 1965 to 1950.
At 7 p.m. in Logan’s O’Neil Auditorium, Halker will present his Ain’t Got No Home: Woody Guthrie and Folk Songs of Protest. Tickets are $15, or $10 for Logan students and children twelve and younger. For tickets, call Logan's Office of Student Activities at (618) 985-2828 ext. 8287 or visit <http://www.jalc.edu/activities>.
Friday, September 7 will feature an afternoon of events at SIU’s Morris Library Auditorium. At 1 p.m., Lieberman and folksinger Ernie Lieberman will present Talkin' Dust Bowl, Union, Anti-fascism, Equality, and Peace: A Conversation about Woody Guthrie, Folk Music, and the American Left.
“I’m actually going to do sort of an interview with my dad, who grew up in Brooklyn, watched Woody play the guitar and learned a lot from him, but was also part of that community of musicians at the time,” Lieberman says. “So I’m going to kind of use his life as a springboard for talking about the world that Woody Guthrie was a part of, and feature some of the songs and give people a taste of what some of the songs are, not just Guthrie’s songs but a lot of others as well.... So we’re going to kind of lay the groundwork for the people who are going to talk about Guthrie more exclusively.”
At 2 p.m. Halker will conduct This Land Is Your Land, a slide show and presentation.
Mark Alan Jackson, assistant professor of English and Folklore at Middle Tennessee State University and author of Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie, will present a symposium, Jolly Banker: Woody Guthrie on the Financial Crisis of Yesteryear and Today, at 3 p.m.
A reception will follow these events at 4 p.m. in the Morris Library Rotunda.
The celebration will come to an end with a concert/hootenanny at 7 p.m. at Cousin Andy’s Coffee House in the Church of the Good Shepherd. This will feature Bucky Halker, Ernie Liberman, Maria Johnson, and others singing Guthrie-era folk songs. There is a $10 suggested donation for this event.
Cochran says he feels that this celebration will be a great way to introduce more audiences to an artist whose work is more relevant than ever.
“In the period of the Great Depression, there were a lot of artists trying to find the voice of the people,” he says, “and I’m thinking of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. But Woody was the real thing. He was a small-town Oklahoma boy who traveled the country during the Great Depression with a lot of people who were forced to migrate for economic and environmental reasons, and he found the voice of those people and articulated their worldview. What’s interesting is how much his work resonates in the current economic situation. His discussion of being victimized by banks and losing homes, it all has come back around to that. So Woody seems to me to be almost as topical today as he was in his own age.”
who Bucky Halker, Robbie and Ernie Lieberman, Mark Alan Jackson, Maria Johnson
what It’s Been Good to Know You: A Centennial Celebration of Woody Guthrie’s Legacy (music and lectures)
where John A. Logan College, Morris Library Auditorium, Cousin Andy’s Coffee House / Church of the Good Shepherd
when Thursday and Friday, September 6 and 7