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On this day in 1967, Woody Guthrie, godfather of the 1950s folk revival movement, dies.
In 1963, Bob Dylan was asked by the authors of a forthcoming book on Woody Guthrie to contribute a 25-word comment summarizing his thoughts on the man who had probably been his greatest formative influence. Dylan responded instead with a 194-line poem called “Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” which took as its theme the eternal human search for hope. “And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin’?” Dylan asks in the poem, before proceeding to a kind of answer:
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You’ll find God in the church of your choice
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital
Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) is best known as an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar. His best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land”, which is regularly sung in American schools. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress. Such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton have acknowledged their debt to Guthrie as an influence.
Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned traditional folk and blues songs. Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression, earning him the nickname the “Dust Bowl Troubadour”. Throughout his life Guthrie was associated with United States communist groups, though he was never an actual member of any.
Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children, including American folk musician Arlo Guthrie. He is the grandfather of musician Sarah Lee Guthrie. Guthrie died from complications of Huntington’s disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder. During his later years, in spite of his illness, Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.
Folk revival and Guthrie’s death
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new generation of young people were inspired by folk singers including Guthrie. These “folk revivalists” became more politically aware in their music than those of the previous generation. The American Folk Revival was beginning to take place, focused on the issues of the day, such as the civil rights movement and free speech movement. Pockets of folk singers were forming around the country in places such as Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. One of Guthrie’s visitors at Greystone Park was the 19-year-old Bob Dylan, who idolized Guthrie. Dylan wrote of Guthrie’s repertoire: “The songs themselves were really beyond category. They had the infinite sweep of humanity in them.” After learning of Guthrie’s whereabouts, Bob Dylan regularly visited him. Guthrie died of complications of Huntington’s disease on October 3, 1967. By the time of his death, his work had been discovered by a new audience, introduced to them in part through Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, his ex-wife Marjorie and other new members of the folk revival, and his son Arlo.
52 BC – Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls, surrenders to the Romans under Julius Caesar, ending the siege and Battle of Alesia.
42 BC – First Battle of Philippi: Triumvirs Mark Antony and Octavian fight a decisive battle with Caesar’s assassins Brutus and Cassius.
1283 – Dafydd ap Gruffydd, prince of Gwynedd in Wales, becomes the first person executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered.
1574 – The Siege of Leiden is lifted by the Watergeuzen.
1683 – The Qing Dynasty naval commander Shi Lang reaches Taiwan (under the Kingdom of Tungning) to receive the formal surrender of Zheng Keshuang and Liu Guoxuan after the Battle of Penghu.
1712 – The Duke of Montrose issues a warrant for the arrest of Rob Roy MacGregor.
1739 – The Treaty of Nissa is signed by the Ottoman Empire and Russia at the finish of the Russian-Turkish War, 1736-1739.
1778 – British Captain James Cook anchors in Alaska.
1795 – General Napoleon Bonaparte first rises to national prominence being named to defend the French National Convention against armed counter-revolutionary rioters threatening the three year old revolutionary government.
1835 – The Staedtler Company is founded in Nuremberg, Germany.
1849 – American author Edgar Allan Poe is found delirious in a gutter in Baltimore, Maryland under mysterious circumstances; it is the last time he is seen in public before his death.
1863 – The last Thursday in November is declared as Thanksgiving Day by President Abraham Lincoln as are Thursdays, November 30, 1865 and November 29, 1866.
1873 – Captain Jack and companions are hanged for their part in the Modoc War.
1908 – The Pravda newspaper is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles in Vienna.
1918 – King Boris III of Bulgaria accedes to the throne.
1929 – The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is renamed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia, “Land of the South Slavs”.
1932 – Iraq gains independence from the United Kingdom.
1935 – Second Italo-Abyssinian War: Italy invades Ethiopia under General de Bono.
1942 – Spaceflight: The first successful launch of a V-2 /A4-rocket from Test Stand VII at Peenemunde, Germany. It is the first man-made object to reach space.
1950 – Korean War: The First Battle of Maryang San, primarily pitting Australian and British forces against communist China, begins.
1951 – The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, one of the greatest moments in Major League Baseball history, occurs when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson hits a game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off of the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, to win the National League pennant after being down 14 games.
1952 – The United Kingdom successfully tests a nuclear weapon.
1955 – The Mickey Mouse Club debuts on ABC.
1957 – Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems is ruled not obscene.
1962 – Project Mercury: Sigma 7 is launched from Cape Canaveral, with Astronaut Wally Schirra aboard, for a six-orbit, nine-hour flight.
1964 – First Buffalo Wings are made at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.
1981 – The Hunger Strike by Provisional Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland ends after seven months and ten deaths.
1985 – The Space Shuttle Atlantis makes its maiden flight. (Mission STS-51-J)
1986 – TASCC, a superconducting cyclotron at the Chalk River Laboratories, is officially opened.
1990 – Re-unification of Germany. The German Democratic Republic ceases to exist and its territory becomes part of the Federal Republic of Germany. East German citizens became part of the European Community, which later became the European Union. Now celebrated as German Unity Day.
1993 – Battle of Mogadishu: In an attempt to capture officials of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s organisation in Mogadishu, Somalia, 18 US Soldiers and about 1,000 Somalis are killed in heavy fighting.
1995 – O J Simpson acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
2003 – Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy is attacked by one of the show’s tigers, canceling the show until 2009, when they rejoined the tiger that mauled Roy just six years earlier.
2008 – The $700 billion bailout bill for the US financial system is signed by President Bush.