Woody Guthrie Foundation

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The Woody Guthrie Foundation, founded in 1972, is a non-profit organization which formerly served as administrator and caretaker of the Woody Guthrie Archives. Dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of information about Guthrie's vast cultural legacy, the Woody Guthrie Archives houses the largest collection of Woody Guthrie material in the world.[1] The archives opened to the public in New York City in 1996. The archives were subsequently moved to the new Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2013, after being acquired by the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Foundation.[2] The Center officially opened on April 27, 2013.[3]

The Woody Guthrie Center features, in addition to the archives, a museum focused on the life and the influence of Guthrie through his music, writings, art, and political activities. The museum is open to the public; the archives is open only to researchers by appointment. The archives contains thousands of items related to Guthrie, including original artwork, books, correspondence, lyrics, manuscripts, media, notebooks, periodicals, personal papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and other special collections.[4]

On September 6, 2007, Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., in cooperation with the Woody Guthrie Foundation released The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949, accompanied by a 72-page book describing the performance and the project. Paul Braverman, a student at Rutgers University in 1949, made the recordings himself using a small wire recorder at a Guthrie concert in Newark, New Jersey.[5] On February 10, 2008, the release was the recipient of a Grammy Award in the category Best Historical Album.[6]

The Foundation was previously based in Brooklyn, New York and directed by Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora Guthrie. Nora Guthrie opened up the Foundation's archives to musicians of many types, who she encouraged to write and record music for the many hundreds of Woody Guthrie's written lyrics. Following Woody Guthrie's death, many of these lyrics were without surviving melodies, as Woody did not write musical notation and never recorded (or taught anyone) the majority of his original compositions.

In 1995, Nora Guthrie had invited alternative folk-rocker Billy Bragg to select some lyrics from the archive to be set to music and then to be recorded commercially. Bragg then invited the alt-country band Wilco to help complete the project. Wilco and Bragg released 2 acclaimed "Mermaid Avenue" albums in 1998 and 2000, using Woody's lyrics set to their own musical compositions. Also, a film documentary Man in the Sand.[7] was released documenting not only the making of the Mermaid Avenue albums but also Bragg's exploration of Woody Guthrie's origins in hometown Okemah, Oklahoma. Many other collaborative projects by others have followed.

Posthumous Collaborations[edit]

  • 1998 - Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue (album), with guest vocalist Natalie Merchant on tracks 3 & 4.
  • 1999 - Billy Bragg & Wilco - She Came Along to Me (EP) - the title track is a single from the 1998 album, with alternate versions of 2 other tracks from that album, plus 2 additional tracks that were later included in Volume III.
  • 1999 - Red Dirt Rangers - "Cadillac Eight" (single track, on their album Rangers Command).
  • 2000 - Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (album), with guest vocalists Natalie Merchant and Corey Harris featured on one track each - this album was culled from the same recording sessions as the 1998 album.
  • 2000 - Arlo Guthrie and various artists - Till We Outnumber 'Em (album) - (this is mostly not Woody's songs, but one track is Billy Bragg's vocal of "Aginst th' Law", previously sung by Corey Harris).
  • 2000 - Slaid Cleaves - "This Morning I Am Born Again" (single track, on his album Broke Down)[8]
  • 2000 - The Autumn Defense - "Revolutionary Mind" (single, track 3, on their album The Green Hour).
  • 2000 - Joel Rafael Band - a cover of the Bragg/Guthrie song "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (single track, on their album Hopper).
  • 2001 - Kim Wilson - 2 songs ("Bigger" and "New Baby Train") on a multiple-artist collection of Woody's children's songs called Daddy-O Daddy. These are the only songs with tunes written by someone other than Woody (tune of "Bigger" and part of the tune of "New Baby Train" written by Frankie Fuchs).
  • 2003 - Hans-Eckardt Wenzel - Ticky Tock (album, English and German versions)[9]
  • 2003 - Blackfire - Woody Guthrie Singles (EP)
  • 2003 - Anti-Flag - "Post-War Breakout" (single track, on their album The Terror State)
  • 2003 - Joel Rafael - Woodeye: Songs of Woody Guthrie (album) - (This album includes 12 Guthrie covers, 1 Rafael original and 1 collaboration: "Dance a Little Longer".)
  • 2004 - Eliza Gilkyson - "Peace Call" (single track, on her album Land of Milk and Honey)[10]
  • 2004 - Janis Ian - "I Hear You Sing Again" (single track, on her album Billie's Bones)[11]
  • 2005 - Ray Wylie Hubbard - cover of Slaid Cleaves' "This Morning I am Born Again", (single track (a cappella group sing) on his album Delirium Tremolos.
  • 2005 - Joel Rafael - Woodyboye: Songs Of Woody Guthrie And Tales Worth Telling, Vol. 2 (album) - (This album is a mix of Woody Guthrie covers and 4 posthumous collaborations.)[12]
  • 2006 - Klezmatics - Wonder Wheel (album)[13]
  • 2006 - Klezmatics - Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah (album) - (This album is a mix of Woody Guthrie covers, posthumous collaborations and Klezmatics instrumentals.)[14]
  • 2006 - Ellis Paul - "God's Promise" (single track, on his album Essentials)
  • 2008 - Jonatha Brooke - The Works (album)[15]
  • 2011 - Rob Wasserman and others - Note of Hope (album), a project long in the making, featuring musicians and narrators including Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, Kurt Elling, Michael Franti, Nellie McKay, Tom Morello, Van Dyke Parks, Madeleine Peyroux, Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, and Tony Trischka - unlike the other recordings listed here, this album features mainly (but not exclusively) Woody's prose writings, some read with jazz backing tracks and others ingeniously set to music.
  • 2011 - Jackson Browne and Rob Wasserman - "You Know the Night" (single) - (This is a radio edit, 4:02 in length, the original album track on Note of Hope being 14:52 long).[16]
  • 2012 - Jay Farrar and others - New Multitudes (album), with musicians including Will Johnson, Anders Parker, and Yim Yames.
  • 2012 - Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue Vol. III (album), a collection of outtakes from the sessions in the late 1990s, including 2 tracks with guest vocals by Corey Harris. One of the songs on this album, "When the Roses Bloom Again", is set to lyrics actually written by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco found the words among Woody's writings in the archive and wrote a new tune.[17]
  • 2012 - Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue the Complete Sessions (album) - simultaneously released with Vol. III, this set contains all three volumes plus a booklet, along with a DVD of "Man in the Sand".

Interestingly, one of the lyrics chosen by Billy Bragg (appearing in the second volume of Mermaid Avenue), "All You Fascists", has subsequently surfaced in a recording of a 1944 radio program "The Martins and the McCoys". Guthrie appeared in the program with other folk singers and can be heard singing "All of You Fascists Bound to Lose", set to his original melody which is of course substantially different from Bragg's melody. Also, Billy Bragg subsequently used the words of the chorus of "All You Fascists" in a completely different original song "All You Fascists 2010", which can be heard on his 2011 mini-album "6 Songs from Pressure Drop".

Given the quantity of these posthumous collaborations, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be some lyrics set to more than one melody. For instance, track 3 on the Wasserman album uses the same set of lyrics as track 3 on the Farrar album (as well as track 3 on the Autumn Defense album). Track 2 on the Brooke album uses the same set of lyrics as track 5 on the third volume of "Mermaid Avenue". The Woody Guthrie Publications website[18] lists Jonatha Brooke's version of "You'd Oughta Be Satisfied Now" as a "derivative work".


  1. ^ 3rd Annual Woody Guthrie Fellowship Program Opens. BMI News, September 21, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2007.
  2. ^ New York Times. [1]. December 28, 2011. Retrieved on April 22, 2013.
  3. ^ Tulsa World. [2]. April 21, 2013. Retrieved on April 22, 2013.
  4. ^ http://woodyguthriecenter.org/archives/
  5. ^ Himes, Geoffrey. Dead 40 Years, Woody Guthrie Stays Busy. The New York Times, September 2, 2007. Retrieved on February 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Grammy.com. 50th annual Grammy Awards Nomination List. (see "Category 91".) Retrieved on February 8, 2008.
  7. ^ Man in The Sand: A Talk with Nora Guthrie. DVDtalk.com, Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  8. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org. GUTHRIE SINGLES BY VARIOUS ARTISTS. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  9. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org. Ticky Tock. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  10. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org. Land of Milk and Honey. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  11. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org. Woody Guthrie Lyrics. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  12. ^ JoelRafael.com. Joel Rafael discography. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  13. ^ Klezmatics.com. Wonder Wheel. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  14. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org.Happy Joyous Hanukkah CD – The Klezmatics. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  15. ^ WoodyGuthrie.org. The Works – Jonatha Brooke. Retrieved October 12, 2008.
  16. ^ PR Newswire [3] Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  17. ^ http://www.bemydemon.org/songs/roses.htm
  18. ^ http://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Lyrics.htm

External links[edit]