Hello. I’m Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library and Museum, and I am delighted to welcome you to Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song.
The legendary singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie wrote over 3000 songs, most famously “This Land Is Your Land,” which he composed a few blocks from the Morgan in February 1940. Through his music, which chronicled the plight of the people, he gave voice and hope to those hit hard during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Guthrie has left an indelible mark on American music, politics, and culture and continues to inspire new generations today.
This exhibition draws on the vast holdings of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma—as well as several private and family collections—to explore Guthrie’s life and career in a series of thematic sections. Anchored by extraordinary objects such as musical instruments, handwritten lyrics and original artwork, these sections trace Guthrie’s creative response to formative themes such as place, politics, family, love, and spirituality. Through these objects you will hear Guthrie’s voice—as an activist committed to social change, as a parent writing playful songs for children, as an American bard telling stories of and for the people.
As you move through the gallery, look for the audio symbols to hear Woody Guthrie speak, in his own words, about the themes and content central to the exhibition. We are fortunate to have additional narration provided by acclaimed singer-songwriter Steve Earle, as well as recorded recollections of Woody by his wife Marjorie Guthrie, his son Arlo, and Bob Dylan.
Thank you for joining us at the Morgan. We hope you enjoy your visit. And as Woody Guthrie would say, “take it easy, but take it.”
Music: “This Land Is Your Land”
Steve Earle: John Steinbeck called him “the American spirit,” embodied in “just a voice and a guitar.” Robert F. Kennedy called him “one of the finest and most authentic artists our nation has ever produced.” But who was Woody Guthrie, America’s “national balladeer”? He lived such a short life—only fifty-five years. But into that life he packed more miles, more words, more song and struggle than many lives lived twice as long. Where did he come from … and where did he go?