chapter  32
Woody Guthrie
Pages 8

Woody Guthrie, the prototype of the politically engaged protest folksinger, characteristically stated his self-defined mission in blunt terms: "Let me be known as the man who told you something you already know." Guthrie today is chiefly remembered through his songs, some of which have become national classics. Even schoolchildren learn his "This Land Is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," "Roll On Columbia," "This Train Is Bound for Glory," and "Hard Traveling." Woody would undoubtedly be pleased that children still enjoy his compositions, although he would likely be distressed that the populist political sentiments that prompted them have for the most part been forgotten. Indeed, his songs document a wide variety of concerns: union organizing ("The Union Maid"), history ("1913 Massacre"), children ("Why Oh Why"), outlaws ("Pretty Boy Floyd"), society's underclass ("Tom Joad"), place ("Oklahoma Hills"), vagabonds ("Weary Hobo"), workingpeople ("Jackhammer John"), and socioeconomic inequalities ("The Philadelphia Lawyer"), among other topics. Most of his songs offer what Peter Welding described as "starkly powerful human documents that detail the plight of the oppressed, dispossessed, poverty and starvation-ridden, homeless,

jobless, nameless, victimized and otherwise disenfranchised" common American.