In 1940, legendary Woody Guthrie composed that age-old song "This Land Is Your Land," just a few blocks from the Morgan Museum & Library, and now more than 80 years later, these handwritten lyrics and more by Guthrie are on view in an exhibit about his life and work.
Curated in collaboration with the Woody Guthrie Center, Woody Guthrie Publications, and music historian Bob Santelli, this new exhibition tells Guthrie's story in his own words and by his own hand, through his actual musical instruments, handwritten lyrics, manuscripts, art and through photographs, books and audiovisual media.
Among the most rarely seen objects includes the original, handwritten lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land,” the Martin guitar Guthrie purchased in the early 1940s, which is the only known surviving guitar bearing Guthrie’s iconic phrase "This Machine Kills Fascists," a 1952 Guthrie guitar, the fiddle he played during World War II and Pete Seeger’s banjo bearing the Guthrie-esque phrase, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
Visitors will also see Guthrie's handwriting in his "New Years Rulin’s," a handwritten manuscript hidden within a seventy-two-page letter to his wife, Marjorie Guthrie, setting out Woody’s endearing New Year’s resolutions for 1943; original lyrics to iconic songs such as “Do Re Mi,” “Pastures of Plenty,” and “California Stars”; objects from Guthrie’s time in New York, including a subway photobooth self-portrait and the lyrics to songs like “My Name is New York” and “Talking Subway Blues”; children’s songs and artwork; unpublished notebooks and writing; objects relating to the end of Guthrie’s life and his many afterlives, including his influence on Bob Dylan. Also on view are family photos and artifacts from the collections of Nora and Arlo Guthrie.
The overarching idea visitors take from seeing the exhibit is how passionate Guthrie was about explaining the human condition but also advocating for the equal treatment of people. You see his concern in works like "My Thirty Thousand," "Deportee," "The Blinding of Isaac Woodard," and "Union Maid." Across his life, Woody ended up writing more than 3,000 folk songs and is heralded as one of the most influential songwriters and recording artists in American history.
Bob Dylan noted of Guthrie, "You could listen to his songs and actually learn how to live."
The exhibit will be on at The Morgan until May 22.