Woody Guthrie & 30s Music

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Woody Guthrie was born in 1912​ in Okemah, Oaklahoma. Guthrie had a rough childhood with his father's fortune fluctuating up and down due to his job as a land speculator, cowboy, and politician. Guthrie's childhood was also filled with fires destroying his homes, killing his older sister Clara, and injuring his father and putting him out of work. Guthrie's mother suffered mental breakdowns and was eventually forced into an asylum by the family. Some people say that Guthrie's poor childhood put him in touch with the poverty-sticken people in the Great Depression.

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From left: Woody, Nora, Charley & George Guthrie at their
home in Okemah, OK in 1924.

Woody then moved to Pampa, Texas and married Mary Jennings in 1933 where they started a family. Woody's start in his music career was forming a band with Matt Jennings and Cluster Baker called The Corn Cob Trio. Guthrie had trouble making it as a musician through the Great Depression and the Great Dust Storm period, so he hitchiked west along route 66 to hopefully find some work to support his family. Woody hitchhiked, rode freight trains, and walked on his way to California to look for work. Woody did whatever he could to support himself on the road including small jobs, painting signs, singing and playing for money in saloons which he soon took a love for traveling on the open road. When Woody arrived in California, he received intense social and physical hatred from the resident Californians who opposed the movement of Oakies into their state. Woody caught some good luck in California though when he landed a job at the KFVD radio station in Los Angeles. Woody quickly took the role of the "outsider" status to relate to his audience which slowly gave him the oppurtunity of song-writing. Some of his songs included: "I Ain't Got Home", "Goin Down The Road Feelin Bad", "Talkin Dust Bowl Blues", and "Tom Joad". Since Guthrie went through a lot of hardships throughout his life, he was really able to relate to the common people during the depression and include his experiences in his songs.

"The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand by their men -- to feel whether this time the men would break."
Grapes of Wrath

In Woody Guthrie's songs, Woody represented all sorts of experiences that people went through in the Great Depression. Some of the things he showed were the struggles of people moving west to California in search of jobs. He also showed the ordeals people went through in trying to farm in the great plains and how the dust storms made the farming a huge failure. As the theme for the 1930s was gloomy and depressing, the main genre for songs being made was the Blues. Through the 1930s, the United States went through a rough time, and the time's selection of songs proved to represent the time.

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