A new exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum explores the life, work and legacy of legendary folk artist Woody Guthrie.
“Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song” officially opened to the public on Feb. 18 with several artifacts, writings and stories from Guthrie’s life. The exhibition was curated in collaboration with the Woody Guthrie Center, Woody Guthrie Publications, and music historian Bob Santelli.
“Several years in preparation, we are delighted to bring the work of iconic musician and writer Woody Guthrie to the Morgan Library & Museum,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of The Morgan. “With tremendous help from the Woody Guthrie Center, this exhibition offers a look inside the life of one of the most remarkable recording artists in American history.”
The exhibit is housed on the second floor of the museum and follows through Guthrie’s life and legacy in six parts. The author of thousands of folk songs, the exhibit features several original song lyrics sheets written by Guthrie, including songs such as “Union Maid,” “Oklahoma Hills,” “Deportee,” and “Joe DiMaggio.”
One of the focal points of the exhibit is the original lyrics to one of Guthrie’s most popular protest anthems “This Land is Your Land,” which was written in response to the song “God Bless America.”
“Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song” includes several artifacts from Guthrie’s life, including a few of Guthrie’s instruments, two of which have the saying “This Machine Kills Fascists” carved into them. There are also several photos and items from his time living in New York City, where he spent the majority of his adult life, drawings, and family photos with him and his children, including folk singer Arlo Guthrie.
Curators were able to secure items from his later years when he was living in Greystone Park State Hospital due to the onset of Huntington’s Disease, a rare genetic disorder that ultimately claimed Guthrie’s life in 1967 at the age of 55. Some of the items include one of the last known item of clothing that he wore during his stay, his yes/no cards from when he lost his ability to speak, and song lyrics that he wrote in the hospital.
The end of the exhibit highlights the lasting legacy that Guthrie had on other musicians, including Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Bruce Springsteen and more.
“Woody Guthrie: People Are the Song” is on display through May 22. The Morgan Library & Museum is located at 225 Madison Avenue. For more information, visit themorgan.org.