Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Blues

by Greg Vandy ::

Woody always said “you can only write what you see.” He spent 10 years in the Dust Bowl, and in 1940 Victor Records released his Dust Bowl Ballads LP, which became his defining work. A topical songwriter who used existing melodies in ballads that reported on the condition of “his people,” Guthrie became a hero to migrants who traveled to California looking for a brighter future and work. Only a year later, he would write and record demos which would become known as his Columbia River songs. These songs, commissioned by the federal government to promote massive public works projects – the Grand Coulee Dam and Bonneville Dam – are strikingly optimistic ballads of hope and considered to be answers to his earlier dust bowl ballads. Green pastures of plenty instead of skinny mules. Good bye dust bowl, hello “misty crystal glitter of the wild and windward spray” ‪‎

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