To The MoMI.org Home Page



   Click for larger image In 1939, Guthrie moved his family back to Pampa, Texas. During the harsh winter of 1940, he set out on a solo journey to New York City. On his trip, he frequently heard Irving Berlin's popular tune, "God Bless America," on the radio. The song's lyrics bothered Woody because he knew that not all Americans were blessed. Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in reaction to Berlin's song.


    Click for larger imageGuthrie discovered that New York City was a hotbed of artistic expression and intellectual fulfillment:


    There was a 'documentary' movement in all of the arts, an attempt to discover 'the people' as a source of creativity, a search for authenticity, all laced with left leaning political ideas and activism. The result was an outpouring of creativity, among the most accessible and politically charged in America's cultural history.

--This Land Is Your Land:
The Life And Legacy of Woody Guthrie


    Click for larger imageWhile in New York, Guthrie rode the subway trains and lived in Harlem and the Jewish ghetto, singing his songs all over town, discovering struggle and suffering:


    "I never did know that the human race was this big before. I never did really know that the fight had been going on so long and so bad."

--Woody Guthrie


    Click for larger imageWoody became a celebrity in 1940 after RCA released his Dust Bowl Ballads. He was featured on network radio shows and earned a hefty salary. But the strict censorship of his work compelled him to walk away from his success.


    "I got disgusted with the whole sissified and nervous rules of censorship on all of my songs…and drove off down the road across the southern states again."

--Woody Guthrie


    Click for larger imageThe Almanac Singers-comprised of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell and considered the first urban folk singing group-asked Guthrie to sing politically themed songs in union halls and at organized strikes across the country from Philadelphia to San Francisco. They all lived together in New York City in a loft on 4th Avenue where they threw large parties.


    Their loft became the scene of joyous, free-form hootenannies. Click for larger imageHundreds of people crowded in, including the likes of Lead Belly, Aunt Molly Jackson, Burl Ives, Blind Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, and Josh White. Non-musicians were charged thirty-five cents. Beer was ten cents a cup. The proceeds kept the Almanacs afloat.

--This Land Is Your Land:
The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie


    Click for larger imageThe Almanac Singers influenced many strikers and helped them achieve their protest demands throughout the country.


    Huge companies were beginning to agree to some union demands. And the Almanacs-their music informing, encouraging, unifying workers-provided the soundtrack for the epic change.

--This Land Is Your Land:
The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie


    Click for larger imageMeanwhile back in Oklahoma, Guthrie's wife Mary felt abandoned by Woody, so she and the children went to live with her parents in Texas. Woody then met dancer Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia while working on a choreographed dance piece for Dust Bowl Ballads.


    Marjorie was married. So was Woody. But here was an instant recognition between them. The two began living together in an apartment on 14th Street in New York. Marjorie commuted back to Wilmington, Delaware, making cameo appearances in her marriage.

Click for larger image   When she became pregnant by Woody, she returned to Delaware, arguing that the baby needed a real home, and that she would decide later which man she would live with.

   Woody and Marjorie married in 1945.

--This Land Is Your Land:
The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie