One of the challenges in intergenerational work is finding music familiar or approachable to all the generations involved. Woody Guthrie songs are frequently on my list. They have a familiarity and timelessness. His songs are still worth singing.
Part of this is due the hundred of songs he wrote: from political to traditional, children’s songs, ballads and many improvised works. Part of it is due to Woody’s philosophy about songs:
A song don’t have to be as old as the hills to be good, true, or honest. Songs that tell the true battle of our people to get better and better conditions everywhere are as good hot or cold, new or old, just so’s they’re honest.
Much has been written about Woody’s life and music. In some situations the history of the song are powerful. Often we have “forgotten” the verses that tell about the conditions of life. Consider some of the less familiar verses 4 and 5 of “This Land is Your Land”.
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
The Official Woody Guthrie Website is my favorite go-to site for his checking lyrics of his songs. There are also lessons plans for sharing.
The Woody Guthrie songs I find I share most are:
- Bling Bland
- Buffalo Gals
- Car, Car Song (Take You Riding in the Car, Car)
- House of the Rising Sun
- Put Your Finger in the Air
- So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh
- This Land is Your Land
- This Train is Bound for Glory
Woody shared so many great songs, I doubt I will tire of learning ones new to me or of sharing them.
My eyes has been my camera taking pictures of the world and my songs has been messages that I tried to scatter across the back sides and along the steps of fire escapes and on the windowsills and through the dark halls.
Thank you Woody for songs still worth singing.