Singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, a regular WoodyFest headliner, said Guthrie has become even more renowned than fellow Oklahoma philosopher Will Rogers.
“It's interesting. He's more alive today than he's ever been, just his words and music. I think a lot of things that he preached are still valid today as far as the struggles that we all face. ... I think what he really was mostly against, what he really hated, was greed. And that's pretty much a lot of our national discussion now is greed.”
For Ann Guthrie, the singer-songwriter's 95-year-old sister-in-law, Woody isn't some mythical figure with a guitar in his hands and a song on his lips, he is a real person with strengths and flaws whose memory remains precious to her.
“We had to accept Woody as he was, the way he lived and how he traveled around like he did. With (his first wife) Mary and the children and the divorce, that was hard ... but we still loved her and the kids,” she said.
Her late brother-in-law was married three times and fathered eight children.
The songs he wrote, particularly during the Great Depression, speak to the strength and struggle of the common man, so they continue to inspire, she said. “His music that he writes, the songs, people understand the words and they know what he means and it has made such a change in our society. We've come a long way, and Woody was one of the first in this part of the country who brought about that change,” she said. “I'm overwhelmed ... that it was 100 years ago that all this has come to pass and that I lived a part of it. It's been quite a journey through these years.”
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Woody Guthrie Folk Festival