Woody Turns 100

Sep 4, 2012

Woody Guthrie; Associated Press file

He wrote about greed, scabs and death (“1913 Massacre”). He wrote about fascists and priests who broke their vow of celibacy (“All You Fascists” and “Be No Church Tonight”). He wrote about being broke, lonely, and pursued by the law. His lyrics emphasized freedom. and peace. Freedom and peace for the world, his country, and for each and every person, no matter what their ethnicity, social standing, or bank account balance.

And, he—Woody Guthrie—wrote about bubble gum.

I woke up when the mornin’ come,
Bubble and a bubble and I bubble my gum.
Comb my teeth with a wide teeth comb,
Bubble and a bubble and I bubble my gum.

Chewed my milk, drank my toast,
I drunk down a big beef roast.
Heard my daddy ask my mom,
Who’s that a-bubble-in bubble-in’ gum.

My brother walked with me to school,
He said you bubble your gum like a fool.
He offered me a knife, some marbles and gun,
If I would give him my bubble-in’ gum.

Of course, most of us know Guthrie through his most famous song “This Land Is Your Land.” But even this song, which was written in protest to what he considered the overuse of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” contains socially-conscious verses that most people don’t know:

In the squares of the city, In the shadows of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

To celebrate Guthrie’s 100th birthday (he died in 1967 from complications of Huntington’s disease), the Pasadena Public Library presents “Celebrating the Life, Music & Legacy of Woody Guthrie” on Saturday, September 15th. Folk singer and political activist (“songfighter”) Ross Altman will play a selection of Guthrie’s songs, and to discuss the singer’s life in Southern California during the Depression, Occidental College professor Peter Dreier will be on hand. He will also be signing the recently published The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen were interviewed for the PBS American Masters documentary Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home, which will be screened on Saturday, September 29th. Ed Cray, professor at USC and author of Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie is scheduled to introduce the film.

Celebrating Woody Guthrie
Saturday, Sept. 15th, 2 p.m.

Documentary: Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home
Saturday, September 29th, 2 p.m.

Location for both events: Allendale Branch Library, 1130 Marengo Ave.
For more information, call 626.744.7260 or visit



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