Woody Guthrie 1941-1967

Almanac Singers

Almanac Singers, Ca.1942.  (L to R) Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell, Bess Lomax Hawkes, Pete Seeger, Arthur Stern, and Sis Cunningham

In May of 1941, Guthrie is commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior to write songs promoting the inexpensive power and the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams.  In the summer, he joins the Almanac Singers (featuring Pete Seeger) in New York for a cross-country tour and in the summer the group records Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads and Sod-buster Ballads for General Records.  Upon returning home from the tour, Guthrie moves to Greenwich Village, where he continues to play and live with the Almanac Singers.  From the spring of 1942 until November of the following year, Guthrie narrates and performs for Folksay modern dance; signs a contract with E. P. Dutton for the publication of his book, Bound for Glory; joins the Merchant Marine and is eventually shipping out on his first three voyages with Cisco Houston and Jimmy Longhi, and travels back to New York and eventually moves to Coney Island. 

Upon returning to New York, Woody meets and records songs for the founder of Folkways Records, Moses Asch and records in April of 1944.  These historic sessions included, “This Land is Your Land” as well as one hundred other compositions by Guthrie; through collaboration with Herbert Harris Stinson Trading Company, the record was released in March of the following year.  In 1946, Guthrie beings to write and record children’s songs for Asch’s label—Songs to Grow On for Mother and Child and Work Songs to Grow On

Moses Asch Letter

Letter from Woody Guthrie to Moses Asch and Marion Distlerundated requesting catalogs.  Envelope postmarked, 7/31/1946. 

The 1950s were creative, yet difficult and trying years for Guthrie.  In September, 1952 he is shows signs of having Huntington’s Chorea—a hereditary, degenerative disease; in April he tours college campuses with Pete Seeger, and checks into the Brooklyn State Hospital in New York in September of 1954.  In May, 1956, leaves the Brooklyn State Hospital and checks into Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains, New Jersey, where he is diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea, the same disease that had institutionalized and caused the death of Woody’s mother. 

In the spring of 1961, Guthrie is transferred back to Brooklyn State Hospital.  A collection of writings, Born to Win, is published in 1965 by Macmillan.  In April 1966, Guthrie is commended by the U.S. Department of Interior for Columbia River songs, presented with the Conservation Service Award and is honored by having a Bonneville Power substation named in his honor. 

On October 3, 1967, Woody Guthrie passed away while at Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. 

Woody Guthrie Biography
Woody Guthrie 1941-1967