The Queen of American Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Woody Guthrie once called her “the queen of American folk music.” The Library of Congress recognized her as “the dean of American folk singers.” And Bob Dylan said she was “a light that never went out.” Who is this woman of such high praise?

The life of Woody Guthrie

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter and musician. He is frequently cited as an influential figure in American folk music and culture. His best-known works include the songs “This Land Is Your Land”, “Pastures of Plenty”, and “Pretty Boy Floyd”. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress. Throughout his life, Guthrie was associated with United States Democratic Party. He died of complications related to Huntington’s disease

Guthrie was born in Okemah, a small town in Oklahoma Territory, to Nora Belle (née Sherman) and Charles Edward Woody Guthrie. His parents named him after Woodrow Wilson, then Governor of New Jersey and the Democratic candidate who had been elected as President of the United States the previous November. Charles signed the birth certificate with an X, indicating that he was illiterate. Afterward, he changed his middle name to Wilkerson

In early 1924, Guthrie’s father arranged for him to marry Mary Louise Monitor, a seventeen-year-old girl living near Pampa, Texas. Guthrie later claimed that Monitor had been sixteen at the time of their marriage.(However, according to Texas law at that time,Monitor would have needed to be eighteen in order to marry without parental consent.) In 1930 Monitor gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Gwendolyn carriers

His influence on American Folk Music

Woody Guthrie is often referred to as the “Father of American Folk Music.” His songs, many of which were written during the Great Depression and World War II, tackled social and political issues of the day and celebrate the American working class. Guthrie’s influence can be heard in the work of folk musicians like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen.

His most famous songs

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940, although the song was not widely known until it was popularized by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez in the 1960s. The song has become an anthem for the American working class and is often used as a symbol of the American dream. Other famous Woody Guthrie songs include “Roll On Columbia,” “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,” and “Hard Travelin’.”

His legacy

Leadbelly’s recordings were released by the Library of Congress in 1949 and 1950 as part of the Lomaxes’ pioneering work in folk music. They helped to spark the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and he became an influential figure in the American folk music scene. His best-known compositions include “midnight Special”, “Goodnight, Irene”, “Gallows Pole”, “Cotton Fields”, and “Rock Island Line”.

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