Good Night Little Darling


Guthrie originally wrote this song as “Goodnight Little Darling” for Cathy Ann on January 22, 1947. He recorded her reaction to it—“A nice song. You sing a pretty song”—underneath the verses in the original manuscript. Less than a month later, and only a few days after Cathy Ann’s fourth birthday, tragedy struck the Guthrie home. The family radio malfunctioned and caused an electrical fire that fatally burned Cathy Ann while she lay in her bed. Woody and Marjorie were devastated yet determined “to hold onto ourselves and to do things the way that Cathy would like to see us do.” Following her death and preceding the birth of his son Arlo, Woody revised and retyped the lyrics as “Goodnight Little Arlo,” but kept the original date of composition for “Goodnight Little Darling.”

“Goodnight Little Arlo”
Typed lyrics, 1947


Music: “Goodnight Little Cathy”

Steve Earle: ‘All work together’ was the family motto. Although Woody married three times and had eight children, each fulfilling different aspects of his life, it was when he had a stable home on Mermaid Avenue, in Coney Island, Brooklyn, that Woody was able to channel his creativity and focus on fatherhood. It was at this moment that Woody felt most at home and spent his days and nights as a stay-at-home dad. He’d bring the kids to build sandcastles at the beach and walk along the boardwalk, grabbing a hot dog at the infamous Nathan’s, while his wife Marjorie was dancing in the Martha Graham Dance Company. In this home tape, you can hear Woody teaching Arlo how to play the harmonica, with Nora, playfully nicknamed “Puffy,” in the background.

Music: Woody teaching Arlo how to playing harmonica