Episode 26 – Man Crush Monday – Whose Land is it?
Woodrow loved his mother. What little boy didn’t? But things weren’t always rosy at home. During his youth, his sister was burned to death, after her clothes caught fire during a family argument.
But his mother? He was just 14 when his mom was taken off to be institutionalized. Woodrow didn’t know that her dementia was caused by Hutingdon’s Disease, and that it would eventually cripple and kill her. Dad was off in Texas working to repay his debts, leaving Woodrow and his siblings to beg for food and work odd jobs just to get by.
When he befriended a black shoe-shine boy with a harmonica, he realized that George could teach him a lesson or two about how to get by on the streets, and so he bought his own harmonica, and sang for his supper. His dad would have had an issue with his choice of friends, though, I’m sure. In fact, a year before young Woodrow was born, his father, a member of the KKK had been involved with the lynching of a black man.
Woodrow dropped out of school, and opted for homeschool, spending his time busking for cash on the streets, and reading at the local library.
But this was Oklahoma, and the Dust Bowl was looming. As Woodrow entered adulthood, his home was engulfed in drought and poverty, and he was swept up in the Oklahoma migration to California – Grapes of Wrath style.
In the face of such poverty, it’s no wonder he was drawn to the ideas of communism. Which promises equality for all men, even if historically, it doesn’t always deliver.
Eventually Woodrow’s musical skills would land him a job playing hillbilly music on the radio. But his communist sympathies would eventually get him fired.
That didn’t stop him though, from loving America, even if his views were different than most. He travelled the country, playing folk songs, and eventually settled in with the artistic community in New York City. Where he penned a patriotic song that would echo for years to come – resonating with friends on both sides of the aisle.
“This Land is Your Land. This Land is My Land” is still sung these days, and it’s both a sentimental picture of America’s beauty, and a stinging statement about poverty.
For telling stories, writing songs, and surviving in the face of some of our nation’s hardest times – today’s Man Crush Monday is Woodrow – Woody Guthrie.
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