I have made a video of one of Woody’s songs and am recording the same song for my next CD. Woody is said to have written over 1000 songs, making him one of the most prolific folk song writers of the 20th Century.The question is; which are the 3 best Woody Guthrie traditional folk songs of all time? Here is my list.
I suggest that the top 3 are:
- This Land is Your Land
This song has become a kind of unofficial American folk national anthem. I am a Canadian and a Canadian version exists which many Canadians view as their unofficial folk national anthem. Written in 1940 and set aside by Woody for several years, the song after several versions were experimented with, was finally published and became the version we know and love today. Recorded by folk artists like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary in the 1960’s, the song was given new life in the generation of the “baby boomers” and the “hippie” anti-war movement of that era. Bob Dylan was a frequent visitor to Woody in hospital in the last years of his life. Considered a protégé of Woody, Bob went on to become as prolific as Woody as well as the voice of the folk movement of the 1960’s.
- Hobo’s Lullaby
This song is Woody’s personal favorite. Woody was a spokesperson for the poor and downtrodden working man of the early 20th Century and of the “Great Depression.” This song was written by Woody during the depression when migrant workers would frequently hop freight trains from one work location to another. Many of these “hobos” were actually workers, victims of the economic circumstances of their times. Woody spent a lot of time among these migrant workers and the lyrics evolved from that period of his life. The image of Woody singing this song, in the evening, by a campfire, beside the railroad tracks for workers longing for home and a better set of life circumstances, is iconic and deeply representative of Woody and his music.
- 1913 Massacre
It would be difficult to produce a collection of best Woody Guthrie songs without including this classic about a Christmas disaster in the Italian Hall, during a strike, by miners, in Calumet Michigan . Woody became aware of the circumstances, in 1941, from a book by Mother Bloor. The conflict between striking miners and strikebreakers resulted in the death of seventy-three people including fifty-five children. Woody was a spokesman for the poor, for laborers, for the downtrodden of society. Many of his songs related their circumstances and brought attention to their plight. He is considered by many to be a “social revolutionary.” This song answers all of the questions about why Woody was so deeply involved in those causes.
Whether or not you agree with my picks, there can be no argument that these are some of the best Woody Guthrie traditional folk songs of all time. If you like folk songs you might also like to check out Smokin’ Joe Wiseman He has covered traditional folk songs and writes his own. Click here to download a copy of his latest single for free.