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Struggle

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Album Review

This album was originally released by Moses Asch, founder of the Folkways label, on Asch Records in 1941 as Struggle: Documentary No. 1. It was released by him in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial of the American Revolution with a special series of liner notes by Asch explaining the importance of Woody Guthrie's history of the working class through song. Both Guthrie's songs and the liner notes are stuff of supreme cultural importance. In the notes, Asch lays out a theory that the American Revolution has not yet been completed and there is a need for a "continuing struggle for human rights and equality." As a collection of songs, this is surely one of the best Guthrie collections, especially once it's known how important it was to him personally. In many ways, it seems as if this album was the fulfillment of a very personal vision, which starts with the songs but is only realized in their collectivity. Included here are such excellent songs as the unsettling "Hang Knot," the elliptic "Union Burying Ground," and the finely spun "Pretty Boy Floyd." These songs define Guthrie at his best, never didactic in tone but supreme in import. The album also features the Cisco Houston (Guthrie's sometime tramping companion) number "Get Along Little Doggies," as well as his vocal accompaniment on several tracks. Sonny Terry guests on "Lost John," lending his harmonica to Guthrie's tale of a chain gang escapee. Both as a historical artifact and as an amazing Guthrie album, this is required listening.

Biography

Born: 14 July 1912 in Okemah, OK

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Woody Guthrie was the most important American folk music artist of the first half of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting, beginning with the standard "This Land Is Your Land" and including such much-covered works as "Deportee," "Do Re Mi," "Grand Coulee Dam," "Hard, Ain't It Hard," "Hard Travelin'," "I...
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