We talk with Will Kaufman, a professor of American literature in England and a professional folksinger who’s bringing what he calls a “live documentary” on Woody Guthrie to the Bay Area. His show, “Hard Times and Hard Traveling” is now accompanied by the new book “Woody Guthrie, American Radical.”

Will Kaufman, author of "Woody Guthrie: American Radical"


    There have been many excellent interpreters of Woody Guthrie (including Mr. Kaufman) but nobody channels Woody better than Springsteen—check out his version of “Vigilante Man” on  YouTube.

  • Phred

    My Grandfather and Great Grandfather were Okies.  My Grandpa was born in the Territory that his Father helped survey for the great landrush.  Both were followers of the teachings of Eugene V. Debs and both believed that tipping was the work of oppressive capitalists and helped to defeat the great liberalizing movement that was happening in the early 20th century. Both men also supported the local Grange halls and thought that, in their time, the US was already overpopulated and that we could only continue as a society as long as the people controlled the means of production.  Though they never called themselves “Communists” there were a lot of sympathies for those that did.  I think there were a lot more independent thinkers and liberals involved in those years than your guest suspects.

  • Anon

    For another collection of exemplary Woody Material check out Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1 and 2 by Billy Bragg and Wilco…

  • Jean Barish

    I was brought up on Woddy Guthrie’s children’s songs in an album called “Songs to Grow On.”   Songs like “don’t you PushMe were a lesson in social justice and tolerance that have lasted a lifetime.  Thank you, Woddy Gutrhie, for standing up for us plain folks and especially teaching me how to live a decent, caring life.  Jean 

  • Sjybarra

    my parents were okies.
    my dad was a mexican american and mother irish both okie who came out during the depression. Once when my dad came back to return to work at the santa fe, he was stopped at the arizona border when he tried to get back on the bus. at that time you had to have a return ticket. my dad showed the guy the ticket the officer asked who he was , he replied a spanish american, the guy said you cant get on the bus then. My day asked what he had to be to get on the bus , the guy said an indian, my dad said hell then I am an indian.
    We learned all the guthrie songs in my dads union halls.
    Like all okies he got it when he got to california, guthrie that is.

  • Tylermcclellan

    Please talk if you would about the relationship between Woody Guthrie and Allen Lomax.

  • Diamond Dave

    Dave Rovacs is an Anarchist and it those circles that I see and here him,

  • Pamela Trounstine

    Jonatha Brooke did an album with Woodie Guthrie’s lyrics and her own music… if you’re a Woodie fan and like any other folk artists, this is likely to appeal to you:  http://www.amazon.com/Works-Jonatha-Brooke/dp/B001BWQAA0/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1311616656&sr=1-1

  • cytherasweetmusic

    I was on the edges of the folk music movement in the 60s. Sang in a couple of clubs.  Met a few of the biggies.  There was no one I ever met that didn’t know that Woody was a Commie, or that he had grown up with some pretty reactionary political views.  It was hard to avoid one or the other of those things at that time (not to mention anti-Semitism).  He didn’t let that define him though.  He grew and changed as he traveled round and had his eyes opened.  Maybe he had a long way to go still when he died, but at least he was well on his way.  More than I can say about a lot of people now.

  • kqed supporter

    what was the name of the wilco song that was played towards the middle or end of the woody guthrie program today?

  • ruby tuesday

    “California Stars” lyrics written by Woody Guthrie.  Music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

  • Leslieann2

    Dear Will Kaufman,
       I enjoyed your program about Woody Guthrie. I was surprised to hear that Woody in his younger years was a racist. I know his brother Roy was one. I didn’t realize his dad was as well.
       I was wondering: I read Woody’s autobiography “Bound for Glory” years ago. Do you know how much of it is true, and what parts he may have made up? There’s an incident in it in which Woody as a child was bringing milk to an African American woman and her son. He asks her “…are you a “nigger ’cause you’re black?” She explains that when she calls herself that, she knows she doesn’t mean it, but if anyone else does it, it makes her feel bad. He says he “didn’t call her that anymore.” Did he not learn anything from that? Or did he invent it years later?
       I attribute his “wanderlust,” as well as his amazingly prolific output of songs, to Huntington’s Chorea, at least in part. Sadly, he inherited it. I’m so glad Arlo didn’t!
       Thank you for the very informative and fascinating presentation.
    Leslie Nieves

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