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posted by Satyam Kaswala in Entertainment

Woody Guthrie and protest songs

July 13, 2012

Tomorrow marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the immeasurably influential folk icon Woody Guthrie. The world is set to celebrate his centennial through a series of concerts, festivals, museum events, reinterpretations of his work, recordings, and, appropriately, protests. His songs of protest, which poignantly articulated the struggles, dreams and tiny everyday triumphs of those who are suffering, helped define the nation like few other songwriters of the twentieth century.

His legacy remains today as vital as ever. As Andrew Cohen writes in the Atlantic, "Guthrie's principal lament about America is still obvious and irrefutable: The nation is divided into haves and have-nots—and the have-nots are always the ones in pain. Born of the Great Depression, hardened by war, Kerouac before Kerouac, Guthrie's music was sung by war protestors in the 1960s and by "Occupy" protestors in 2012. "This Land Is Your Land"—haunting, teasing, eternally illusive—is as relevant today as it was when Guthrie first wrote it nearly three quarters of a century ago. No wonder Springsteen called it "about the greatest song ever written about America."

Like many others before me, I first discovered Guthrie through the man who idolized him- Bob Dylan. I see Guthrie as part of an American lineage of dissent, from Thoreau (whose birthday was yesterday) to Twain to the Beats. Though perhaps best known for his political protest songs, his music incorporated many subjects, from religion to love to dark humour.

What are your favorite protest songs?

What do you think about Guthrie? Why do you think his legacy and message still endures?

Are there any famous dissenters in history who have influenced you or you think should be more well known?

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