As part of the year-long, nationwide celebration of folksinger Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, the Pasadena Public Library is sponsoring "Celebrating the Life, Music & Legacy of Woody Guthrie" next Saturday, September 15th, at 2 pm at the Allendale Branch Library (1130 South Marengo Avenue).
I will be speaking about Woody's years in Southern California during the Depression. Those years had a profound impact on his music and his politics. He wrote some of his best songs during that period, when he lived in downtown LA, Glendale, and Echo Park. Some of his songs from that period include "Do Re Mi, "Dust Bowl Blues," "Hard Ain't It Hard," "Ain't Got No Home In This World Anymore, "Dust Bowl Refugee," "Grand Coulee Dam, "Pretty Boy Floyd," and "Will Rogers Highway." The song known as "Deportees" was written in New York, but refers to Woody's experiences with migrant farm workers when he lived in Southern California. Obviously his most famous song, "This Land is Your Land" -- "from California to the New York Island" and "From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters" -- was partly inspired by his Southern California sojourn.
Woody is one of the people I profile in my new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. The book will be on sale at the event and I'll be signing books for those who are interested.
Folk singer Ross Altman will play a selection of Guthrie's songs from that period.
Two weeks later, on Saturday, September 29, at 2 pm, the Pasadena Public Library will be screening the wonderful PBS American Masters documentary film, "Woody Guthrie: Ain't Got No Home." It includes great footage from Woody's life as well as interviews with Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and others. Ed Cray, professor at USC and author of Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie, will introduce the film.
For more information, call (626)744-7260 or visit the Pasadena Public Library website.
Learn more about the year-long Woody Centennial Celebration, cosponsored by the Woody Guthrie Archives and the Grammy Museum.
Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His new boo, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, was published by Nation Books in July.