Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie Various Artists (Vanguard)


World excluding USA & Canada
Catalogue Id:
VMD 73105

The notes that accompany this historical set of song performances begin with an eloquent and wise  note from a critic from the New Yorker in the early 1940s that are worthy of re-quoting here, "Someday people are going to wake up to the fact that Woody Guthrie and the ten thousand songs that leap and tumble off the strings of his music box are a national possession like Yellowstone and Yosemite." The prophetic statement is most correct with its use of "national possession", for Guthrie's songs were about the people, about the people's shared surroundings and very much for the people. They were songs born of experience, observation, concern and love of the natural aspects of country, and as such they were shared songs that could be taken up by a wide variety of performers, each able to add their own stamp and interpretation. They were songs within the folk traditions that were designed, perhaps consciously and unconsciously, to be moved on to new generations who would take from them and breathe new life into them.


Since his birth in 1912, Woody Guthrie's life was characterised by variety in many forms. After a succession of family difficulties he travelled from his birth state of Oklahoma to Texas, Los Angeles, the Southwest and eventually to New York. Along the way he worked at many odd jobs while singing and learning songs from many other workers and traditions. His life brought him into contact with the downtrodden, eventually letting these experiences find an outlet through his song writing and work for left-wing publications. The melodies for his songs were often from earlier sources, or adaptations of them, but it was his words that told of his loves and concerns. The collection that we have here features many of his best known, and starts with his own delivery of ‘This Land Is Your Land’, a supreme love poem to America's land, with the unwritten plea to later generations to take good care of it. There follows effective and moving readings of Woody's songs by the likes of The Weavers, Cisco Houston (with whom Woody had toured California) and long-time fan Country Joe McDonald. Some of these are intentionally commercial, accessible and populist, while others like Odetta's version of ‘Pastures Of Plenty’ lead us into deeper and more affecting moods.


Woody Guthrie's songs were songs about real issues around him at the time, yet they cross the generations with their underlying social concerns, and their emphasis on what is worth fighting for. It's for reasons like these that his songs have lasted, with them now sounding just as important from a twenty-first century perspective as they did when most of these fine versions were cut some fifty to sixty years ago. Woody would have believed strongly in the power of song to encourage thought, and probably would have been quietly pleased that they remain available...with the obvious proviso that they are listened to and where necessarily acted upon.

Track listing

Side 1

  • 01
    This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie

  • 02
    Do Re Mi - Cisco Houston

  • 03
    So Long - The Weavers

  • 04
    Pastures Of Plenty - Odetta

  • 05
    Roll On, Columbia - Country Joe McDonald

  • 06
    Hard, Ain't It Hard - Woody Guthrie And Cisco Houston

  • 07
    Deportees - Cisco Houston

  • 08
    Medley - Woody Guthrie

  • 09
    Old Lone Wolf - Cisco Houston

  • 10
    Medley - The Weavers

  • 11
    900 Miles - Cisco Houston

  • 12
    Jackhammer John - The Weavers

  • 13
    Tom Joad - Country Joe McDonald

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