Woody Guthrie at 100

Portrait of Woody by Marc Nelson ’03

The library’s newest display features folk musician Woody Guthrie, whose 100th birthday is celebrated this year, 2012. Why Woody Guthrie? We don’t study him, or not much, in our curriculum. What does Woody have to do with our studies, jobs, and social relationships at Augustana? Wellll, first of all, just because we don’t study a person, thing, or issue in class doesn’t mean that person, thing, or issue isn’t important. Second, we can learn things outside of class, books, and the internet. Third, Woody is very cool and has influenced musicians from Pete Seeger to Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen.

Why? What is so great about Woody?  He grew up poor, not well educated, and didn’t have a prestigious job, or even any job much of his life. Yet, Woody loved and learned music—first from his mother then from other musicians, then just from within himself—and he believed in the dignity and worth of the common man, woman, and child. He believed that people who suffered in the devastating Dust Bowl and in the Great Depression of the 1930s were given a raw deal and weren’t helped sufficiently by their government and their fellow citizens. Woody wrote thousands of songs that honored everyday life and culture; he performed them in union halls, in migrant camps, on the radio, in music halls, wherever he could find a place and an audience.

His songs endured, and his style attracted other musicians—Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Ani Difranco, Bruce Springsteen—and many others.

Woody’s most famous song is probably “This Land is Your Land” which Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performed at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Woody was also a visual artist and a writer. The guy was a genius.

The library display includes, among other things, a guitar owned by Woody’s friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott; a portrait of Woody by Augustana alumnus Marc Nelson ’03; a charcoal drawing in Woody’s style by student Adrielle Canda; photographs of the Dust Bowl by renowned photographer Dorothea Lange; a very cool typewriter from the 1930s; reflections of Augie students who follow in the footsteps of Woody by engaging in social justice work; and a recording of songs performed by Woody and his followers (hand selected by yours truly). So, come on over, listen to some songs, read about Woody, look at his artwork, and learn something you didn’t expect!

BONUS:  two Woody concerts performed by Paul Cioe and friends:
Friday, December 14, 6 to 7:30 p.m.–RME Community Stage in the cafe
Monday, January 14, 7 to 8:30 p.m.–Wallenberg Hall

For help with this exhibit, I thank Paul Cioe, Adrielle Canda, Marc Nelson, Anne Earel, Connie Ghinazzi, and Christine Aden.

As Woody would say, “Take it easy, but take it.”

–Margi Rogal, reference librarian

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