Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song

February 18 through May 22, 2022
Black and white photograph of Woody Guthrie playing the guitar.

The author of more than three thousand folk songs, Woody Guthrie (1912–1967) is one of the most influential songwriters and recording artists in American history. He is an icon of the Depression era and wrote the world’s most famous protest song, “This Land Is Your Land.” But he was not only a songwriter, and his subject matter extended well beyond labor politics. The full corpus of his creativity—including lyrics, poetry, artwork, and largely unpublished prose writings—encompassed topics such as the environment, love, sex, spirituality, family, and racial justice. Guthrie created a personal philosophy that has impacted generations of Americans and inspired musician-activists from Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen to Ani DiFranco and Chuck D. As Bob Dylan noted of Guthrie, “You could listen to his songs and actually learn how to live.”

The Morgan’s upcoming exhibition tells the story of this great American troubadour and writer through an extraordinary selection of instruments, manuscripts, objects, photographs, books, art, and audiovisual media, assembled from the preeminent Guthrie holdings of the Woody Guthrie Center and the private collection of Barry and Judy Ollman. Prominent among these rarely seen objects are the original, handwritten song lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land,” which Guthrie composed just a few blocks away from the Morgan in 1940. More than eighty years later, this song remains enduringly popular, as Guthrie’s words maintain a vital relevance in today’s world.

This exhibition is presented by the Woody Guthrie Center and Woody Guthrie Publications, in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum.

Woody Guthrie Center logo

Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song is made possible by the Sherman Fairchild Fund for Exhibitions, the Charles E. Pierce, Jr. Fund for Exhibitions, Richard and Ronay Menschel, and the Margaret T. Morris Fund for Americana. Additional support is provided by Liz and Rod Berens, and Jon and Barbara Landau.

Photography by Robin Carson, courtesy of Woody Guthrie Archives.