THE WOODY GUTHRIE LEGACY

Having lived through some of the most significant historic movements and events of the Twentieth-Century --the Great Depression, the Great Dust Storm, World War II, the social and the political upheavals resulting from Unionism, the Communist Party and the Cold War-- Woody absorbed it all to become a prolific writer whose songs, ballads, prose and poetry captured the plight of everyman. While traveling throughout the American landscape during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, Woody's observations of what he saw and experienced has left for us a lasting and sometimes haunting legacy of images, sounds, and voices of the marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed people with whom he struggled to survive despite all odds. Although the corpus of original Woody Guthrie songs, or as Woody preferred "people's songs" are, perhaps, his most recognized contribution to American culture, the stinging honesty, humor, and wit found even in his most vernacular prose writings exhibit Woody's fervent belief in social, political, and spiritual justice.

Having lived through some of the most significant historic movements and events of the Twentieth-Century –the Great Depression, the Great Dust Storm, World War II, the social and the political upheavals resulting from Unionism, the Communist Party and the Cold War– Woody absorbed it all to become a prolific writer whose songs, ballads, prose and poetry captured the plight of everyman. While traveling throughout the American landscape during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Woody’s observations of what he saw and experienced has left for us a lasting and sometimes haunting legacy of images, sounds, and voices of the marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed people with whom he struggled to survive despite all odds. Although the corpus of original Woody Guthrie songs, or as Woody preferred “people’s songs” are, perhaps, his most recognized contribution to American culture, the stinging honesty, humor, and wit found even in his most vernacular prose writings exhibit Woody’s fervent belief in social, political, and spiritual justice.

WOODY SEZ…

“There’s a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days – and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.”

“Music is in all the sounds of nature and there never was a sound that was not music – the splash of an alligator, the rain dripping on dry leaves, the whistle of a train, a long and lonesome train whistling down, a truck horn blowing at a street corner speaker – kids squawling along the streets – the silent wail of wind and sky caressing the breasts of the desert.  Life is this sound, and since creation has been a song.  And there is no real trick of creating words to set to music, once you realize that the word is the music and the people are the song.”

Woody Guthrie- the sign says it all.   New York, 1943.

“Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name.  He is just a voice and a guitar.  He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people.  Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who still listen.  There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression.  I think we call this the American spirit.” 

-John Steinbeck

Activist folk musician Woody Guthrie playing in the famed McSorley's Pub.  -New York 1943

WOODY SEZ…

“The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine.”

Folk singer Woody Guthrie playing his guitar while getting a shoeshine.  -New York 1943

In his lifetime, Woody Guthrie wrote nearly 3,000 song lyrics, published two novels, created artworks, authored numerous published and unpublished manuscripts, poems, prose, and plays and hundreds of letters and news article which are housed in the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City.  Musicians from a variety of backgrounds such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Wilco, Ani DiFranco, The Klezmatics, Hans-Eckhardt Wenzel, and countless others, continue to draw inspiration from Woody Guthrie, re-interpreting and re-invigorating his songs for new audiences. His influence is felt throughout the world, from Native American musicians such as Keith Secola and Blackfire to Chinese Punk rockers PK14 and Danish musician Esben.

Link to The Official Woody Guthrie Website

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TOWNES VAN ZANDT | “TO LIVE’S TO FLY”

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Townes Van Zandt

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There are only two kinds of music… if you know anything about Townes, you can finish that sentence.  You either get Townes and love him, or you don’t.  There is no in between.  And if you don’t get him, well then you probably like that other kind of music that Townes talked about.  I still remember the day that this guy Spencer told me I had to check this out, and he hands me the Townes Van Zandt Discography.  Thank you, brother.  I could go on and on now, telling you all about Townes’ life, times and tribulations and the incredible music it produced, but I’m  not going to.  Because if you don’t know him, well then this is a present that you need to unwrap yourself.  But I will give you a little taste-


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JEFFREY BANKS | GREAT AMERICAN FASHION DESIGNER

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The impeccable designer and author - Jeffrey Banks.

Jeffrey Banks, great American fashion designer.

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Jeffrey is one of those guys that seems to have been born with impeccable style.  As a high-schooler working at the legendary shop Britches, he was tapped by Ralph to come work for him.  Ralph became very fond of Jeffrey– he even lent him his own personal tuxedo and pumps for his Senior Prom.  Polo was a small company back then, so he worked directly with Ralph as his design assistant, and they are still close today.    Jeffrey, passionate about design, made the decision to leave Polo and finish his studies at Pratt Institute and Parsons.  Jeffrey later designed for Calvin, and Merona Sportswear, among others. He launched his own menswear collection in 1977 to much acclaim, and is among the “who’s who” of fashion and a longtime member of the CFDA.

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Shearling trench coat by Jeffrey Banks.

Jeffrey Banks incredible shearling coat.

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One of my many obsessions in life is Shearling coats.  So when Jeffrey showed me  this clipping of a shearling trench he did years ago- well frankly, I lost it. Thanks Jeffrey.  Yes, thanks for creating a huge, gaping hole in me that can now only be filled with a shearling trench coat.  This is one of the most chic and sexy pieces I have ever laid eyes on.  It’s no surprise though, coming from Jeffrey- one of the most dapper guys going, and a two-time winner of the Coty American Fashion Critics award.   Continue reading