To mark Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday, the quintessential American troubadour is being honored with the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Pioneer Award, which is being introduced this year.
“It celebrates his career and a body of work that’s been such a huge influence on so many other artists like Bob Dylan,” says org chair Jimmy Webb. “Here’s a guy who wrote more than 3,000 songs, including such classics as ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and ‘Pastures of Plenty,’ and growing up in splendid isolation in Oklahoma I knew a lot of his songs by the time I was just 4 or 5.”
Still a close friend of Arlo Guthrie, Webb wrote “Oklahoma Nights,” “specifically for Arlo. So beneath the skin, I feel like a cousin to Woody, if not a brother.”
“Like Gordon Lightfoot, he also had that wild-man-on-the-loose profile and personality and the reality of the man was more than the legend. He risked his life organizing labor and used his music as a tool to pull people together in some pretty dangerous times — against people who didn’t mind some bloodletting.”
For Webb, Guthrie’s story is “an epic one. … It has all the elements of idealism, courage, violence and music.”
Tunes for the times