If anybody ever fit the image of the archetypal American folk singer, it was Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. Born in the heartland, he wandered from place to place with a guitar slung over his shoulder, writing songs and poems about the plight of America's losers and outsiders, tenant farmers and factory workers, framing them in a twangy Oklahoma accent and a self-depreciating sense of irony. Though perhaps best known for his topical songs about the Dust Bowl era, he also created a whole body of children's songs, a series of social protest songs like "Vigilante Man" and "Pretty Boy Floyd," and national commentaries including "Pastures of Plenty" and "This Land Is Your Land." Guthrie defined a new genre in American roots music, and his musical children range from Pete Seeger to Bruce Springsteen, from Bob Dylan to Billy Bragg; his 1,000-plus songs won him election to the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame and, in 1988, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma on July 14, 1912, Guthrie went to live with his father in Pampa, Texas when his mother was committed to a mental hospital as a result of Huntington's disease -- an inherited disease that would ultimately claim Woody. Guthrie later became a radio singer in California, a newspaper columnist, activist and composer of protest songs in New York, and a Folkways recording artist. His son Arlo, born in 1947, took up his father's work, establishing his own career as a leading singer and songwriter.
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