The author of Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange shapes a lucid, affecting portrait of another indisputably restless spirit, the prolific songwriter and impassioned folksinger Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967). Drawing from Guthrie's autobiographical writings and correspondence and from original interviews (with the singer's children Arlo and Nora, and Pete Seeger, among others), the author painstakingly charts his subject's itinerant, often troubled life. Tragedy often, eerily, in the form of devastating fire shadowed Guthrie from his childhood, when his mother, suffering from Huntington's Disease (which eventually ravaged the singer as well), was finally placed in a state hospital after setting her husband on fire. (Years later, Woody's four-year-old daughter died from severe burns.) In chronicling Guthrie's cross-country ramblings and his relationships with his three wives, children and fellow musicians, Partridge offers intriguing insight into the singer as well as the creation of his songs. Background on political and social conflicts gives young readers access to the issues that so frequently inspired Guthrie. Ample quotations, excerpts from his lyrics, reproductions of his sketches and photographs infuse these pages with Guthrie's spontaneous and charismatic if erratic personality. A memorable biography of this talented artist and understated proponent of social change. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Grade 6 Up-This outstanding biography belongs in every library collection, large or small. With access to the extensive Woody Guthrie Archives and opportunities to interview two of his children and his longtime friend and fellow musician Pete Seeger, Partridge has written a fascinating portrait not only of the man, but also of the historical upheavals that shaped his life and were captured and reflected in his songs. Against a backdrop of the Depression, the Dust-Bowl migration, farm workers' camps in California, World War II, and the Cold War era, readers are introduced to the whirlwind of creative, nervous energy and often-erratic behavior that characterized Guthrie. Although he was hospitalized with Huntington's Disease by the time of the 1960s' folk-music boom, young singers including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Odetta led a new generation to love his music. While deeply appreciative of his many talents, the author does not gloss over his irresponsible behavior and frightening outbursts of violence, which grew worse as his disease progressed, or the family tragedies he endured. Although Guthrie's active career lasted just over two decades, readers are left with an overwhelming sense of the remarkable creativity and productivity of those years and its enduring legacy for future generations. Numerous black-and-white photographs, reproductions of Guthrie's drawings and letters, and concert posters and flyers appear throughout the handsome volume. Partridge includes detailed source notes and a page of resource information about the archives and the Huntington's Disease Society of America.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.