As Okemah celebrates the 100th birthday of favorite son Woody Guthrie today through Sunday with its annual free folk festival, we offer a primer on the man and his music. These facts are your facts.
40 Words from Woody’s Original Copyright Notice for “This Land Is Your Land”
“Anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”
5 Brushes Woody Had with Fire
1. His family home in Okemah was destroyed by it.
2. When he was 7 years old, his sister Clara burned to death by a coal-oil fire in 1918.
3. Nine years later, his father suffered serious burns in a similar accident, requiring hospitalization in Texas.
4. His 4-year-old daughter, Cathy Ann, died in a fire, in 1947.
5. Woody severely burned his right arm in 1953 when a gasoline-doused campfire exploded. He was unable to play the guitar thereafter.
8 Things Famous People Have Said About Woody
1. “He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a
people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced
and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is
nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he
sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen.
There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I
think we call this the American spirit.” —John Steinbeck
2. “You could listen to his songs and actually learn how to live.” —Bob Dylan
3. “I think he must have been a genius.” —Jimi Hendrix
4. “Woody lives and I’m glad.” —John Lennon
5. “The main thing is that Woody’s always standing up for the little guy — the people who are being oppressed. It’s not just a civil rights thing. He’s always stand ing on the side of the people.” —Wayne Coyne
6. “Woody is my hero of heroes and the only person on earth that I will go to my grave regretting I never met.” —Steve Earle
7. “He was blowing against the wind, and you have to admire a guy for that.” —John Mellencamp
8. “He was a communist.” —Glenn Beck
10 Random Artists Who Have Covered Woody’s Songs
1. Harry Belafonte
2. Johnny Cash
3. The New Christy Minstrels
4. Dolly Parton
5. The Alarm
6. Concrete Blonde
7. Ani DiFranco
8. Hot Tuna
9. Indigo Girls
10. Linda Ronstadt
3 Actors Who Played Woody
1. David Carradine in Bound for Glory (1976)
2. Joseph Boley in Alice’s Restaurant (1969)
3. Rick Sharp in TV’s American Masters: Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home (2006)
3 Other Famous Woodys
1. Woody Allen
2. Woody Harrelson
3. Woody Woodpecker
1 RoboCop Star Performing at This Year’s WoodyFest
1. Ronny Cox, who’s an accomplished guitarist.