Saturday, February 6, 2010

Woody Guthrie's American Song

This month marks the 70th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's iconic "This Land Is Your Land," written in 1940. At the Unitarian Universalist Church here in Bloomington, Indiana, the Heartland Players are presenting their version of Peter Glazer's "Woody Guthrie's American Song," a fundraiser for Mother Hubbard's Cupboard Food Pantry and Mental Health America of Monroe County. Directed by Steve Krahnke (of public television WTIU), with musical direction by Dan Lodge-Rigal, this is a spectacular production.

The extraordinary talent on stage includes the Breeden brothers, Darrell and Bill (Darrell plays the oldest Woody); members of the Jesseph family, Laura, Maggie and Charlie (Charlie, as the youngest Woody, sings a heartbreaking version of "Dust Storm Disaster"); and featured singers Jane McLeod, Mitch Rice, Mary Boutain, Guy Loftman, Laura Wanner and Licia Weber. The performance has energy from the first number, "Hard Travelin'/The People I Owe" to the last, "This Land is Your Land."

There's a PBS American Masters show about Woody Guthrie called "Ain't Got No Home" that tells the often tragic story of his life, including his death at age 55 of complications from Huntington's Disease. This show focuses more on the enduring relevance of Guthrie's contribution to folk music, and the ways in which he remains "at home" everywhere common people gather, suffer, and seek economic justice.

Maggie Jesseph put it this way:

"Woody Guthrie's American Song"...makes me laugh and cry, feel weak and small and then big and powerful--I guess that is how it is when you are telling the people's story.

Charlie Jesseph posted a video to YouTube that gives you a hint, in rehearsal, of this wonderful tribute to Woody Guthrie.

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