Will Kaufman’s “Hard Times, Hard Travellin”
A “Live” Musical Documentary of the Life of Woody Guthrie.
Will Kaufman’s WOODY GUTHRIE: HARD TIMES AND HARD TRAVELLIN’ is a captivating “live documentary” that sets the songs of Woody Guthrie in the context of the American 1930s – the Dust Bowl, the Depression, the New Deal and the state of popular music itself. Such hard-hitting Guthrie songs as “Vigilante Man”, “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “I Ain’t Got No Home” are brought into conversation with other relevant songs – from Joe Hill’s “The Preacher and the Slave” to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”. Altogether the show highlights the blending of music and radical politics that marks Guthrie’s most powerful work.
About Will Kaufman
Will Kaufman is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire, England. He has given his Woody Guthrie presentations at such major events as the Glastonbury Festival, the Bath International Music Festival, the Chester Literature Festival, the Big Session, and the Piacenza Literature and Blues Festival in Italy. He has also performed at countless European universities, trades clubs, folk clubs and union halls. In 2009 Will was historical consultant to the Chichester Festival Theatre/English Touring Theatre production of The Grapes of Wrath, directed by Jonathan Church.
In 2008 Will was awarded the Woody Guthrie Research Fellowship from the Broadcast Music Industry Foundation and the Woody Guthrie Foundation. His book, Woody Guthrie, American Radical is published by the University of Illinois Press.
Will Kaufman’s Woody Guthrie, American Radical reclaims the politically radical profile of America’s greatest balladeer. Although he achieved a host of national honors and adorns US postage stamps, and although his song “This Land Is Your Land” is often considered the nation’s second national anthem, Woody Guthrie committed his life to the radical struggle.
Will Kaufman traces Guthrie’s political awakening and activism throughout the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Civil Rights struggle, and the poison of McCarthyism. He examines Guthrie’s role in the development of a workers’ culture in the context of radical activism spearheaded by the Communist Party of the USA, the Popular Front, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Kaufman also establishes Guthrie’s significance in the perpetuation of cultural front objectives into the era of the “New Left” and beyond, particularly through his influence on the American and international protest song movement.
Utilizing a wealth of previously unseen archival materials such as letters, song lyrics, essays, personal reflections, photos, and other manuscripts, Woody Guthrie, American Radical introduces a heretofore unknown Woody Guthrie: the canny political strategist, fitful thinker, and cultural front activist practically buried in the general public’s romantic celebration of the “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”
A portion of the royalties from the sales of this book will be donated to the Woody Guthrie Foundation.
“Overdue rediscovery of folk music’s great agitator.” – Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating look at Woody Guthrie’s politics.” – MOJO
“The writer of ‘This Land Is Your Land’ wasn’t just a songwriter – Guthrie committed himself to radical political struggle. Discover more in this handsome, elegantly compiled tome.” – New Musical Express
“Drawing on previously unseen letters, song lyrics, essays, and interviews with family and friends, Kaufman traces Guthrie’s involvement in the workers’ movement and his development of protest songs. He portrays Guthrie as a committed and flawed human immersed in political complexity and harrowing personal struggle.” - Library Journal
“Kaufman is an excellent guide to a tradition buried under a multi-decade propaganda campaign that buried the stories of rural and radical America.” – PopMatters
“As Will Kaufman argues in his wonderful and uncompromising book, the folksinger was not driven by some abstract commitment to justice alone, but by the vision of a cooperative planned economy, one that could meet people’s needs directly and foster meaningful social, economic, and racial equality.” – Monthly Review