NEW YORK - Recently at the New York City's Symphony Space, British Punk-rocker, now Woody Guthrie biographer, delivered a truly great solo performance. Singing songs, that he provided the music for from the previously unreleased Guthrie lyrics, Bragg told the powerful story of Woody's commitment to social justice and humanity. Each song carried personal notes that Guthrie wrote at the bottom of his lyrics. Bragg said that these notes made it easier for him to write the accompanying music.
To make sure the audience understood the social justice message, Bragg urged the more than 1,000 in attendance to participate in the next day protest "Youth March for Life" that was sponsored by the United N.Y. Black Radical Congress. He read the flyer, "A Militant and Peaceful Protest of the Albany verdict in Memory of Amadou Diallo." He emphasized the demands: "civilian control of the police; fight racism; defeat Giuliani; education not incarceration; abolish street crimes unit." And, then he added emphatically for everyone to "Vote, Vote, Vote."
Bragg was making this appearance to urge everyone to see the Woody Guthrie exhibit on the life and times of Woody Guthrie taking place at the Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.
During the performance which included as much discussion as singing, Bragg talked about Woody Guthrie's brush with Hollywood, California. He talked about how, "Will Geer, a member of the Communist Party, helped Woody during his time in Hollywood." He then added that, "Yes, Grampa Walton was a Communist."
In a particularly moving part of the evening, Nora Guthrie joined Bragg on stage and helped him sing a couple of her father's songs. It was Nora Guthrie who chose Bragg to write the music to the newly found lyrics of her father. It was clearly a perfect choice.
The Guthrie exhibit has been organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Woody Guthrie Archives and in association with the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The exhibit, "This Land is Your Land, The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie," runs through April 23. It is perfect place to take your whole family, the students in your classrooms, including public schools, college and training programs. Everyone!
- Eric Green