Seattle Author Recalls Woody Guthrie's Political Ballads Of The Northwest

Dec 23, 2017

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

Woody Guthrie, often considered America's greatest folk icon, authored hundreds of ballads during his lifetime. His most famous song "This Land is Your Land," like many of his songs, sketched both the political and geographic American landscape.

"When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me"

In 1941, the federal government commissioned the "Dust Bowl Troubadour" to write a song a day about the Columbia Basin and the megaproject of the day: the colossal Grand Coulee Dam. He wrote about the beauty of the Northwest and how the dam's construction would bring water and power to the parched region.

"Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the water runs down
Ever stayed in this Union us migrants have been
Working this fight and we'll fight til we win."

Greg Vandy, a Seattle author and KEXP DJ, describes Guthrie's journey to the Northwest and reveals what he calls the "beauty of his simplicity."