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Oklahoma folk icon Woody Guthrie would've celebrated his 100th birthday Saturday

At the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in his hometown of Okemah, musicians, fans and relatives of the Oklahoma icon reflect on the lasting legacy of the famed folk troubadour, who would have turned 100 on Saturday.
by Brandy McDonnell Published: July 14, 2012

“To me, it's amazing that now that Garth Brooks is not that famous anymore, the two most famous Oklahomans are not oilmen or farmers or even football players, but philosophers.”

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.”

by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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if you go

Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

When: Through Sunday.

Where: Various venues in Okemah.

What: Musical performances, children's activities, open mike, poetry readings, guitar workshop, fundraisers for the state chapter of the Huntington's disease Society of America.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Free for daytime events; $15 per car evenings at the Pastures of Plenty Stage. Cost includes a festival program.

Information: www.woodyguthrie.com.

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