Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie

I’ve heard and read several things this week celebrating the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth on July 14. I have to admit, other than learning “This Land Is Your Land” and putting him on a list of famous Oklahomans in my eighth grade Oklahoma History class, I never really knew much about him.

So I’ve learned a lot this week. I’ve heard about his music and his politics, his childhood and his family life. I’ve listened to music I’d never heard before (or heard but never knew was Woody Guthrie).

Now, before you think I’ve lost my ever-lovin’-mind (somehow that seemed the right expression to use), this really isn’t a post about Woody Guthrie. It’s a post about the power of music. Because even as I was listening to interviews with biographers and discographers and musicians and fans, I kept thinking … “We’re talking about all this because of his birthday?!?”

Woody Guthrie died in 1967. 45 years ago. But his music and his influence have outlived him. One man with a guitar had a profound influence on generations of artists. Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger are obvious. The jump to Springsteen seems pretty clear. U2 … I can see that. Wilco’s covered his music.

Music is powerful. It has influence (good and bad) on aspiring artists and fans alike. And as is proven by the plethora of centennial celebrations for Woody Guthrie, it can endure and spark conversations long after an artist is gone.

So when you find yourself humming “This Land Is Your Land” later today, think about how music has impacted you. And think about how you can use the power of music to open doors for conversations with students.

Want some help using music to start a conversation with your students? Check out some of our discussion starters for popular mainstream songs here.

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