Woody Guthrie’s Influence
Woody Guthrie influenced more than just music – his influence extends to how we should take on this thing we call living. As for music, I would call him the first punk – totally stripped down, all passion, make a song out of anything, shout it out for all the world to hear. I don’t know the exact quote, but Woody did say that any song with more than three chords is just showing off: that illustrates his simple, direct approach to music. Beyond the simplicity though, any music that wants to elevate social consciousness (from the Folk Revival to mid-80s Rap & early Hip-Hop) has the pathway cleared for them by Woody’s vast body of work that poured out of him during the Great Depression. It was almost as though he was put here on this earth AT THAT TIME in order to write those songs, those newspaper articles, those poems.
And that’s what Woody embodies most – the idea of a human being so fully immersed in who they were meant to be. Honestly, the majority of us humans lead nice but relatively insignificant lives, and those rare individuals who truly shine are the ones who are complete in what they are here for. And I’m not talking about rich and famous – they could be the professor who wants to do nothing more than teach Rimbaud and Beowulf but who teaches it like no other person can – to Mother Theresa, who was on this earth for no other reason than to spend a life helping the poor in India. Woody embodied that; he was given to us to show us how to be committed to a cause, how to love everybody no matter what they looked like, to help anybody no matter how little they or we have, and to always scream out against injustice until everybody hears and finally gets mad enough to do something to change it.
Most importantly: he did it with music. He did it with words. Others may resort to guns, to bribes, to vile and evil manipulations, but not Guthrie. He made his change by shouting it from the rooftops as well as singing from the road ruts. And he did it better than anybody, because he was fully and truly alive. Then, as well as now.