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Nora Lee Guthrie (born January 2, 1950) is the daughter of American folk musician and singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie and his second wife Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, sister of singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie, and granddaughter of renowned Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Nora Guthrie is President of The Woody Guthrie Foundation, Founder of the Woody Guthrie Archive, and Mt. Kisco, New York. Nora is also President of Woody Guthrie Publications.
Nora Guthrie graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 1971. Following a successful career in modern dance Nora began working with her father’s materials in 1992. Based on her intimate connection to her father’s ideas and ideals, Nora brings a refreshing interpretation of his work and a new understanding of his legacy.
Her first project, in 1992, was the publication of a lost songbook of Woody’s original lyrics and illustrations, Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs, published by Harper Collins. The following year, Nora co-produced the accompanying album Woody's 20 Grow Big Songs with her brother Arlo Guthrie, which received a Grammy nomination in the Best Children’s Album category.
In 1994, Nora co-founded the Woody Guthrie Archives with Harold Leventhal and archivist Jorge Arevalo. In addition to managing the Archives and preserving her father’s personal materials and original creative works, Nora develops and produces new projects which continue to expand Woody Guthrie's cultural legacy. In 1996, the Woody Guthrie Archives was open for free research to scholars and students, making Woody Guthrie’s personal & professional collection available to the public for the first time.
In 1996, Ms. Guthrie co-produced the first ever Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum Tribute series honoring Woody Guthrie. Main events consisted of a scholarly symposium held at Case Western Reserve University,a weekend of intimate shows at local clubs, and a tribute concert in Cleveland’s famed Severance Hall. Among the many artists that participated in the tribute weekend were; Bruce Springsteen, Jorma Kaukonen, Indigo Girls, Billy Bragg, Joe Ely, David Pirner, Tim Robbins, Alejandro Escovedo, Ani DiFranco, Jimmy LaFave, and Arlo Guthrie and many others. Ani DiFranco produced and released the live concert CD titled Til We Outnumber ‘Em, on her independent label Righteous Babe Records.
In 1998, Ms. Guthrie was Executive Producer of the ground breaking Billy Bragg/Wilco collaboration Mermaid Avenue (1998, released on Elektra Records) and Mermaid Avenue Volume II (2000, release on Elektra Records), and Mermaid Avenue, The Complete Sessions (2012, released on Nonesuch Records) These landmark albums, creating new music to previously unknown Guthrie lyrics, received critical acclaim and Grammy nominations in 1999 and 2001 respectively.
In 1998, Nora worked with folk artist Kathy Jakobsen to create the children’s book This Land is Your Land, published by Little Brown, and Co., which illustrates and highlights Guthrie’s classic lyric. Now in its 10th anniversary printing, This Land Is Your Land has won numerous awards and literary praise.
Additionally, in 1998, Ms. Guthrie curated her first major exhibit This Land Is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The exhibit opened in May 2000, at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles and toured for three years at major museums throughout the country, including the National Museum in Washington, DC and the Museum of the City of New York. This extensive exhibit presented previously unseen original Guthrie materials including notebooks and diaries, artworks, lyrics, photographs, instruments and memorabilia giving a rare and intimate look into the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie.
Marking Woody’s 90th anniversary year, in 2003, Nora co-produced a month-long celebration of Woody’s life and legacy in Nashville, TN. Programs included public school events, lectures, gallery exhibits, film screenings, concerts, and an exhibit at Nashville’s Songwriters Hall of Fame. The month-long tribute culminated with Nashville Sings Woody! a concert held at the Ryman Auditorium featuring local and international musicians. Among the many performers paying tribute were Marty Stuart, Old Crow Medicine Show, Janis Ian, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Guy Clark, Peter Rowan, Nanci Griffith, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Tim O’Brien, Alison Brown, Corey Harris, and Arlo Guthrie.
In 2003, Nora collaborated with Berlin composer and performer, Hans-Eckardt Wenzel on the innovative Ticky Tock, released on Contraer Musik Records. Available in both English and German languages, this CD continued to explore new avenues for Woody’s lyrics and ideas. Ticky Tock received The German Record Critics' Award in 2003. (Wenzel also won Germany’s Deutcher Lieder Preis for his translation and arrangement of “This Land Is Your Land” in 2013.)
In 2003, Nora invited working-man’s punk rockers, Dropkick Murphys to the Woody Guthrie Archives, to work with Woody Guthrie's previously unpublished lyrics. The lyric selected was "Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight" and was the title track on their album "Blackout", on Hellcat Records. Strangely, the release pre-date the infamous Northeast blackout of 2003 by two months. The connection between Woody & Dropkick was undeniably electric, warranting a follow-up. "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" was the subsequent collaboration, released on The Warriors Code, in 2005 on Hellcat Records. "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" has since become a Boston anthem, appearing in Martin Scorcese's Oscar winning film, The Departed in 2004, as well as becoming an iconic theme song during the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox broke the 86 year "Curse of the Bambino".
Taking yet another unusual turn, Ms. Guthrie worked with the world renowned klezmer band The Klezmatics, exploring Woody Guthrie’s Jewish themed lyrics. Members of the Klezmatics composed music for Woody’s Hanuka lyrics for Happy Joyous Hanukkah, their 2004 holiday CD release. Wonder Wheel, their 2006 release focused on Woody’s lyrics dealing with Jewish history, culture and spirituality, won the 2007 GRAMMY Award for Best World Music Album. In continuing the exploration of this unique collaboration, Holy Ground: Woody Guthrie’s Yiddish Connection, is a multimedia lecture program which Nora currently presents.
In 2001 the Woody Guthrie Archive received a donation of a wire recording dating back to the 1940s. Nora Guthrie and Woody Guthrie Archive curator, Jorge Arevalo Mateus spent years investigating audio restoration, in the hopes of finding something special on this rare artifact. As it turned out, the wire recordings contained a never before heard, complete live performance given by Woody Guthrie on December, 1949. Woody's wife, Marjorie Mazia, acted as moderator for the program. The evening was a cultural event meant to introduce Woody Guthrie's songs to a small group of adults and children at the YMHA in Hewark, NJ. The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949, was self-released on Woody Guthrie Legacy Records, won the 2007 GRAMMY Award for Best Historic Album.
Woody Guthrie ArtWorks, published by Rizzoli Press, is the first publication to highlight Woody as a visual artist. Nora released this very special coffee table book, co-edited and designed by Steven Brower. In more than 300 examples, Woody Guthrie's visual creativity is apparent, from political cartoons to bawdy and comical gouaches, to children's art and abstract emotional outpourings. For decades Guthrie’s vast trove of artwork has remained virtually unknown and unexplored. This exciting publication reveals the art as one of Woody Guthrie's long-time muse. Included are essays by Steven Brower and Nora Guthrie, introduction and afterword by Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy
In 2008, Nora released another new album of unpublished lyrics with folk rock singer/songwriter, Jonatha Brooke. Adding a new dimension to Woody's lasting legacy, The Works delves into Woody’s love songs and is the first full album collaboration with a female artist. Working with exceptional musicians such as Steve Gadd, Christian McBride and Joe Sample as her main band, with guest appearances by Greg Leisz, Keb Mo, Derek Trucks, Eric Bazilian and Glen Phillips sharing in various spotlights, Jonatha's immense creativity as a composer and arranger are evident. The Works was engineered and co-produced by Bob Clearmountain.
The premier release in the almost 2 year celebration of Woody's centennial year was Note of Hope, a CD almost a decade in the making. This special project was spearheaded by Nora and renowned bassist, Rob Wasserman, exploring Woody Guthrie’s poetry and prose. Together the two recruited a stellar group of artists uniquely suited to bringing Guthrie's words alive. Special guests on the project included: Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, Kurt Elling, Michael Franti, Nellie McKay, Tom Morello, Van Dyke Parks, Madeleine Peyroux, Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, Tony Trischka, and Chris Whitley.
Following on the heels of Note of Hope, another original collaborative project was released. New Multitudes features: Jay Farrar (Sun Volt), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), and Anders Parker. Nora first invited Jay Farrar to peruse the Archive, who invited the other musicians to collaborate on the project. Most of the lyrics on this two-CD release, derive from Woody’s early years in Los Angeles, the 1930s. Woody’s days spent down on LA’s skid row, and later, his return to LA in the early 50s, are uniquely intimate and relate two distinctly emotional periods in his life.
2012 marked Woody’s 100th birthday! *For a complete list of conferences, events, and public programs - visit www.woody100.com
The year-long celebrations, co-produced by Nora Guthrie and Robert Santelli (Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum Foundation) included; educational conferences, exhibits, adult and elementary school outreach programs & presentations, and concerts that followed Woody’s road from Oklahoma through California and on to New York City.
THE FIRST STOP on the centennial tour was Woody's home state, Oklahoma. On March 10, the all-star concert featured: Arlo Guthrie, John Mellencamp, The Del McCoury Band with Tim O'Brien, Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal, The Flaming Lips, Hanson, Jimmy LaFave, and Old Crow Medicine Show, and took place at the Brady Theater in the downtown Brady Arts District of Tulsa, OK.
THE SECOND STOP was Pampa, Texas, for an intimate evening performance by Arlo Guthrie, titled Woody's Road to Pampa.
THE THIRD STOP was Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California, where on April 14, all all-star concert featured: Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Graham Nash, Van Dyke Parks, Tom Morello, Dawes, John Doe, Joe Henry, Rob Wasserman, Joel Rafael, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.
THE FOURTH STOP was the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. On September 22, 2012 our all-star tribute to Woody featured: Judy Collins, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Tony Trischka Band, The Klezmatics, John Cohen & The Dust Busters, Mike + Ruthy, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, and Pete Seeger.
THE FIFTH AND FINAL STOP was The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on October 14, 2012 and featured: John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder and Dan Gellert, Judy Collins, Del McCoury Band with Tim O'Brien, Ani DiFranco, Tom Morello, Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal, Lucinda Williams, Donovan, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jimmy LaFave, Joel Rafael, Rob Wasserman, Tony Trischka, Sweet Honey In The Rock, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center was released to CD & DVD on Sony Legacy Records and premiered on PBS.
Additionally, Nora worked as editorial consultant on the 2012 GRAMMY Award winning WOODY at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection released by Smithsonian Folkways Records. This stunning centennial box set includes 3 CD's of Smithsonian Folkways original recordings, with never before released tracks and radio recordings by Woody Guthrie. The accompanying book includes essays by Jeff Place, Robert Santelli and Peter LaChappell. This package highlights over 150 original pieces of artwork, lyrics, photographs and writings by Woody Guthrie from the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and the Woody Guthrie Archives.
In 2013, Nora collaborated with Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp to release House of Earth, a previously unpublished completed manuscript Woody Guthrie wrote in 1947. House of Earth, a New York Times Best Seller released on Depp’s Harper Collins imprint Infinitum Nihil, tells the story of an expectant couple who are desperately surviving the Dust Bowl and the depression in the Texas Panhandle and dreaming of a better future where they will own their own home, an adobe home, a house made of earth.
On April 28, 2013, The Woody Guthrie Center opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nora Guthrie along with Robert Santelli (Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum Foundation) and the George Kaiser Family Foundation created the permanent home for the Woody Guthrie Archive, complete with a permanent exhibit on the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie, a temporary gallery space, and a 60-seat theater. The Woody Guthrie Center, located in the heart of the Brady Arts District, is dedicated to educating people on the powerful and intangible legacy Woody Guthrie has left.
On November 11, 2013, Nora self-published Woody Guthrie's Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited. This new book by photographer Phillip Buehler, revealed a largely unknown slice of Woody Guthrie’s life. Through never-before-published letters, historic and family photographs, rare personal interviews, contrasted with present day photographs of the abandoned Greystone hospital by Buehler, Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty brought into view the five years Woody spent as a patient at Greystone Park State Hospital in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Afflicted with Huntington’s disease, Guthrie lived the last 15 years of his life in hospitals, suffering from this degenerative neurological disorder. One of these hospitals was Greystone Park, where he was a patient from 1956 through 1961. He lived in Ward 40, calling it “Wardy Forty.” It was here that 19-year-old Bob Dylan visited his idol and the torch was symbolically passed to a new generation of folk singer. Wardy Forty is the 2013 IndieFab Book of The Year winner by Foreword Reviews.
September 23, 2014 marked the release of Nora’s most groundbreaking, recent work, My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town. This walking tour guidebook & the companion deluxe 3-CD audio book highlights 19 significant locations in NYC where Woody Guthrie lived and composed some of his most iconic works. Woody lived in New York City from 1940-1967, a total of 27 years. Although he continued to ramble, New York was the city he called home, and always returned to. With friends Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and others, he was at the hub of a new movement – introducing and popularizing rural, roots, topical, and protest music to modern urban audiences. Written and narrated by Nora Guthrie, co-produced along with Steve Rosenthal and Michael Kleff, My Name Is New York includes stories told by those who knew him best; music partners Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Sonny Terry, and Bess Lomax Hawes, Woody's first wife Mary Guthrie, Woody's merchant marine buddy Jimmy Longhi, Lead Belly’s niece Tiny Robinson, Bob Dylan, Woody's second wife Marjorie Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, and Nora Guthrie share their memories. My Name Is New York book & audiobook was selected by the New York State Education Department to be included in New York City's 2015-2016 music history curriculum for middleschool and highschool students.
In 2005, Nora Guthrie commissioned contemporary classical composer David Amram to create a symphonic interpretation – a new musical expression - of “This Land Is Your Land”; asking Amram to use the text and melody as the foundation, and an inspiration, from which he could expand on. Just as Aaron Copland honored “Simple Gifts” as his muse for Appalachian Spring, so might David create an honest and honorable tribute to the many ideas and stories which Woody planted within the verses of "This Land". To mark the 75th Anniversary of Woody’s “This Land” – penned in 1940 in NYC - Newport Records recently released This Land; Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, conducted by David Amram and performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, on February 23, 2015.
Nora is currently collaborating with bluegrass icon Del McCoury on a new album focused on Woody’s hillbilly & bluegrass styled lyrics. The world premiere of this work took place on June 29, 2013 at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, located in Katonah, NY and Del hopes to release the complete album in 2015.
- Nora Guthrie at the Internet Movie Database
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Nora Guthrie. First person interview conducted with Nora Guthrie speaking about her father, Woody Guthrie, on October 7, 2010. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.