Woody was born in one of the most desolate places in America, just in
time to come of age in the worst period in our history. Woody found an
audience during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression singing in the migrant
camps and on the picket lines. Woody was one of their own - he spoke
their language and he sang their songs. As he became more outraged he
became more radical, but his songs and his patter always maintained a
sense of humor and hope.
Woody arrived at his social conscience organically, over a period of
years. He divided his time between teaching himself to play several musical
instruments only tolerably well and frequent marathon sessions in the
public library, where he clandestinely educated himself, following his
own haphazard curriculum. It was only natural that when he began to make
up his own songs, he drew on the despair and pain he had witnessed all
his life and the lofty ideas that richoted around in his head for inspiration.
He became the living embodiment of everything a people's revolution is
supposed to be about: that working people have dignity, intelligence
and value above and beyond the market's demand for their labor.
Woody hated Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" more than any other
song in the world. He believed that it was jingoistic and exclusive,
so he wrote a song of his own. It goes:
This land is your land
This land is my land
To the New York island
From the redwood forest
To the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.