The great American folk singer Woody Guthrie was born 100 years ago today, on July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma. He was named Woodrow Wilson Guthrie after the President, nearly eight months before Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office. Woody was always a little ahead of his time, but also very much of it. Here is a video of Woody Guthrie performing–and being recorded directly to vinyl–the song Ranger’s Command in 1945, one of only two purported surviving film clips of Woody Guthrie performing:
The Atlantic published an article this week, Why Woody Guthrie Endures, that provides a good synopsis of the singer, his life, music, and legacy. Guthrie died in 1967 after a 15-year battle with Huntington’s Disease, but not before he passed his legacy onto a new generation, led by Bob Dylan, who visited Guthrie many times in the hospital where Woody lived most of those last fifteen years. Their meetings were faithfully reproduced on Saturday Night Live, seen here and helpfully subtitled in Spanish:
Happy birthday, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. This land is your land.