Sarah Lee Guthrie reflects on grandpa Woody’s songs
Born on July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie’s centennial returns the folk icon’s vox pop spirit to the spotlight as dozens of concerts, festivals and tributes play out through the summer and fall all over the world. Not surprisingly, Woody’s son, Arlo, his grandchildren and great grandchildren have their own traveling Guthrie Family Reunion tour.
“We’ve only done this once before, and that was years ago,” says Woody’s granddaughter Sarah Lee from her home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, which is where she grew up. “Seventeen of us on one bus and my mom and dad on another. It was one big happy family; a bit different from most family reunions, I’m sure. Now we’ve got three generations of us touring around, and then we have Woody’s spirit, so we’ve got four generations.”
At various places, famous Woody Guthrie fans like Billy Bragg, who performs at a special birthday celebration in Okemah, and Steve Earle, who leads WoodyFest in Manhattan, Woody’s homebase, will join the family in reviving some of his iconic folk paeans.
“There are so many of his songs that still ring true,” says Sarah Lee. “You can compare a lot of the old Woody Guthrie songs and they apply to what’s going on today. Songs like ‘Pastures of Plenty’ and ‘I Ain’t Got No Home,’ a lot of those old songs are more important in our lives than they’ve ever been.”
With Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Tim Robbins, Wood Brothers, Rachael Yamagata and more
Through Friday, 8 p.m.
City Winery, 155 Varick Street
Guthrie Family Reunion Featuring Arlo and Abe Guthrie, Cathy Guthrie, Annie Guthrie and Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion
Sunday, July 15, 7 p.m.
Central Park SummerStage
Chances are if Woody Guthrie were a young man right now, he wouldn’t be at the Occupy sit-ins. He’d be leading them.
“He’d be thrilled to know that people have the guts to stand up for what they believe in,” says Sarah Lee Guthrie. “He knew that it was powerful to unite and use your voices. It was never about right or left wing, it was about presenting an unbiased account of the facts and then making up your own mind. I think Woody is out there with them.”