Utilizing a wealth of previously unseen archival materials such as letters, song lyrics, essays, personal reflections, photos, and other manuscripts, the book introduces a heretofore unknown Woody Guthrie: the canny political strategist, fitful thinker, and cultural front activist practically buried in the general public’s romantic celebration of the “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”
Kaufman writes in the Introduction:
“Woody Guthrie’s radical activism was once common knowledge, particularly among those who had their ears tuned to the energetic progressive culture that predated McCarthyism, that poisonous watershed of political erasure. A watered-down version of the radical Guthrie had survived into the 1960s, thanks in part to the generation of young musical activistsâ€”’Woody’s Children,’ they were calledâ€”who continued to circulate his more popular songs and otherwise champion his legacy. At various times, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, and Peter, Paul, and Mary (among others) were honored with this familial designation. Some of Guthrie’s younger contemporaries still carried his radical torch around the margins of American society, none more than Pete Seeger, who did not fully reemerge from the shadows of the McCarthyite blacklist until 1967, the year of Guthrie’s death. By then, Guthrie himself had become, for the most part, the icon of a vague unconformity among college students, the little guy who had flipped the bird to ‘the system’ and had taken off down the road with a guitar strapped to his back.
At the same time, ironically, Guthrie had achieved a degree of public recognition and a series of official honors that had all but wiped out his radical profile.”
Net Galley users can view an advance of the book here.