Happy 100th birthday, Woody Guthrie.
The legendary and long-passed folk troubadour’s centennial is this year and folk lovers are throwing a huge Brooklyn party for the singer — a fitting tribute considering the borough was the rambling singer’s residence of choice.
The Oklahoma-born musician may have roamed to every state in the union during his years as a traveling musician — but Brooklyn was the singer’s true home.
“Woody Guthrie spent most his years in Brooklyn — when he was sitting down,” said Robert Santelli, the executive director of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, which is throwing the celebration, which will include a star-studded concert and a day of talks from Guthrie scholars at Brooklyn College. “If there was one place to choose that would be most important for him, it would be Brooklyn.”
Guthrie, who lived in New York from 1940 until his death in 1967, was an “Okie,” at heart, a guy who loved everyday people and had a passion for social change.
That means he fit right in Brooklyn.
“Guthrie loved the intellectual situation in Brooklyn and that people of all types could come by his place on Mermaid Avenue,” said Santelli. “This is a guy who read the federalist papers and made comments in the margins, read Plato and Walt Whitman. He was familiar with ideas that were really at the forefront of contemporary thought.”
The show at Brooklyn College will feature folk stand-bys like his Woody’s son Arlo, Judy Collins, Steve Earle, and Wilco’s Billy Bragg.
It’s all part of an effort to pay tribute to Guthrie’s time in Brooklyn, say the show’s organizers.
“His favorite place was Nathan’s,” said his daughter Nora Guthrie. “Whenever my mom wanted to clean the house, my dad would take us down the boardwalk and disappear with us for an hour at Nathan’s. He liked the feeling of space that was out there, being able to walk on the beach on out.”
In a way, Brooklyn still reflects the borough as it was when her father arrived, she said.
“Now that’s kind of ironic to me that this group of hillbilly, country, bluegrass-type music is again thriving and influencing people here. Urban people are suddenly interested in roots music — it’s is exactly what happened to Woody when he arrived the 1940s.”
Woody Guthrie Centennial at Brooklyn College [Walt Whitman Theater, 2900 Campus Rd. at Hillel Place in Midwood. (718) 951–4500, www.brooklyncenter.com.] Sept. 22, 7:30 pm. Starting at $35.