Sunday, April 30, 2017

Woody Guthrie

We learned a lot about the Dust Bowl and the Depression during our visit to the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa.  Many of his early songs concerned the problems faced by everyday folks during those difficult times.  Here are two well-dressed men seeing jobs.

Woody had been caught in the severe dust storm that moved across Oklahoma on April 14, 1935--Black Sunday--and one of his songs talks about that experience.  The storm was so massive it has even been included in a documentary on the Dust Bowl by Ken Burns.

I was dwarfed by this mural in the center's lobby.

This is one of the photos of that dust storm that is included in the Burns film.

In addition to writing music, Woody was quite an artist.  This is just a small section of one wall in the museum showing some of his drawings.  You can click on the photo to enlarge it and get a better view.

Guthrie wrote protest songs and supported working people against the establishment.  This is one of his banjos.

During World War II, Guthrie served in the Merchant Marine.  Twice his ships were torpedoed.  The words on the top right side of the strings of this guitar say  "Once Drowned, Twice Sunk," referring to his wartime service.

I have never really been into popular music or much folk music.  I had heard of Woody Guthrie and recognized his voice in the songs we heard in the museum.  I am really familiar with this song he wrote.  It was popular during the time I was in college.

The museum has a temporary special exhibit about Pete Seeger, another protest singer who was inspired by Guthrie.  He was writing songs about disarmament and the environment and protested the Viet Nam War. For a while he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.  I remember more of this music, including "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "Where are All the Flowers Gone?"

We find museums like this one very informative.  They also show us how out of touch we have always been with popular culture--except for the anti-war protests during the 1960s and early 1970s when John was a Boulder policeman.


  1. It is amazing how many of the songs that were popular during the time we were growing up were protest songs. Many of those composers were just trying to get a fair shake for the common worker. Back then, they were the most expendable and yet the paper pushers jobs were secure.
    It's hard to listen to modern music but even many of these are protesting something or other.
    Be Safe and Enjoy the tours.

    It's about time.

    1. We don't listen to too much modern music. Give me the golden oldies.