If Woody Guthrie were still here, his daughter says, the folk legend would still be his old vigilant self. “I think Woody would be writing everything down, from the minutiae of the daily news to the bigger questions of why are we here and what’s happening right now,” says Nora Guthrie, the president of Woody Guthrie Publications. “I think Woody would be thinking along those lines, questions like that.”
It may be impossible to ascertain Guthrie’s mindset, but a new exhibit — “Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song” —sheds new light on the singer, songwriter, and writer who wrote standards like “This Land Is Your Land” and influenced several generations of musicians, from Bob Dylan through Steve Earle and Billy Bragg.
The exhibit, open now at New York’s Morgan Library and Museum and running through May 22, traces Guthrie’s life through his notebooks, handwritten song lyrics, musical instruments, and even articles of clothing. (It may tour other parts of the country in the future as well.) The show is also accompanied by a book, Woody Guthrie: Songs and Art, Words and Wisdom, by Guthrie and historian Robert Santelli. Here are a few of the standout items in the collection.