Monday, March 19, 2012

One Hundred Years: GRAMMY Museum oversees Woody Guthrie Centennial

Photo and logo courtesy of the Woody Guthrie Archives
Photo credit: Robin Carson, circa 1942
Last week, one of the country's biggest music and multi-media festivals went down in Austin, TX. This year's SXSW paid tribute to one of America's icons, Woody Guthrie. Bruce Springsteen delivered the keynote speech in which he discussed Guthrie's influence on his own work and career. The festival schedule included special performances of Guthrie's songs by folk singers Jimmy LaFave and  Eliza Gilkyson and Colombian rock sensation Juanes, who sang live in English for the first time. Also part of the schedule of events was a panel presentation moderated by Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum and a leading Woody Guthrie historian, with participating members (including Nora and Arlo Guthrie) sharing personal stories and historical perspectives as part of the conversation. And Tom Morello, who had a showcase on Friday night, led a group of Occupy Austin demonstrators in a sing-along of "This Land Is Your Land," a song considered by some as America's alternative national anthem.

Were he alive today, Mr. Guthrie would be about to celebrate his 100th birthday. Los Angeles' own GRAMMY Museum, hand-selected by the Guthrie family, is leading a nation-wide celebration, which as Santelli describes is "a celebration of his life, legacy and the next 100 years" of Guthrie's message and inspiration of using music as an agent for change.

A project nearly two years in the making, and with a staff of roughly 26, the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration includes various educational programs, conferences, discussions, concerts and a museum exhibit. The museum exhibit, which features artifacts from the Woody Guthrie Archives, includes a sheet of paper on which contains the handwritten lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land," originally titled "God Blessed America." The exhibit is currently open in Tulsa, OK, and will make its way to the GRAMMY Museum in April, following Guthrie's own path from OK to CA during the Great Dust Storm.

The GRAMMY Museum staff has also worked tirelessly to coordinate special educational programs for all ages, from musical programs for younger students to conferences for the serious and curious fans at college campuses including USC, Penn State and Brooklyn College.

Los Angeles will also host a special "This Land Is Your Land" tribute concert in April at Club Nokia. The line-up of artists features Jackson Browne, Crosby & Nash, Tom Morello and Sarah Lee Guthrie among others. An evening with Arlo Guthrie (a sold-out event) at the GRAMMY Museum on April 9th will kick-off L.A's Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration week.

It's hard for me to imagine that Woody Guthrie would be 100 this year. Perhaps it's because I was introduced to Mr. Guthrie's music in the first grade, which seems but a recent past. At the same time, Guthrie's work, music, life and legacy are timeless. His social and political messages then are relevant even today. This enormous effort between the Guthrie family, Woody Guthrie Publications Inc., The Woody Guthrie Archives and the GRAMMY Museum is a wonderful collaboration, which is sure to inspire a new generation of musicians and artists to carry on in his spirit for the next 100 years.

Tickets to the Los Angeles tribute concert are currently on sale through the Club Nokia web site. For information on the upcoming Woody Guthrie exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum and other Los Angeles-related events, check back on our blog, or visit the GRAMMY Museum website. For more information on other related events, or for a complete schedule of events part of the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration, visit


1 comment:

Portrait Artist Joseph said...

I can not wait to see this portrait of Woody exhibit.