We’re a day early, but here’s a weekend birthday shout-out to Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie. Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the singer-songwriter’s birth in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma.
Best known for This Land is Our Land, Guthrie also wrote Baltimore to Washington —the “they got troubles, too,” song. He died in 1967 of complications from Huntington’s disease.
Of course, the American folk hero lives on through his recordings — and those like Billy Bragg, who cover his tunes and plainspoken lyrics.
In fact, Bragg, the English punk-turned-folkie — as part of his “There Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me” tour (an homage to Guthrie’s lyrics in Way Over There in the Minor Key) will playing the day after Guthrie’s birthday at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Md.
Amazingly (I bought tickets weeks ago), when last checked late Friday afternoon, seats were still available for the Sunday evening show.
Bragg and the alt county band Wilco collaborated on Guthrie covers on two well-received albums, Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue Vol. II, in 1998 and 2000. The box set, Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, was released earlier this spring in commemoration of Guthrie’s 100th birthday. (Guthrie lived on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island in the late 1940s and early 1950s.)
Celebrations honoring Guthrie’s 100th birthday are planned all over the country, as well as places like Italy, Germany, and Austria, this year. Although I didn’t find anything listed online in Baltimore. However, Saturday night there’s a Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie tribute concert scheduled for the Takoma Park (fitting, isn’t) Civic Auditorium, featuring the U-Liners and Magpie. It’s at 7:30 p.m., $15.
Last year, the play Woody Guthrie Dreams, written by Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith, a Frederick-born UMBC grad, first performed in Baltimore, had a three-week run at the Theater For The New City in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
If you can’t make it to Easton or Takoma Park this weekend, there’s always another option — rent Bound for Glory, the 1976 bio pic directed by Hal Ashby and starring David Carradine. It was nominated for Best Picture in 1976 and it’s available on Netflix.