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Woody Guthrie, American Radical (Music in American Life) Hardcover – March 8, 2011
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"A fascinating look at Woody Guthrie's politics."--MOJO
"A vital contribution ... because of the radical inspiration it ministers during a darkly troubling time in US history when a resolute enflaming of the spirits of resistance and rebellion is urgently needed."--ZCommunications
"Overdue rediscovery of folk music’s great agitator."--Kirkus Reviews
Unearthing the legendary folkie's deep roots in radical politics
Top Customer Reviews
Will Kaufman has gone a long way toward rectifying these gaps with this meticulously researched volume. Full access to the Guthrie Archives has afforded Kaufman the opportunity to delve into hundreds of Woody's generally unknown lyrics, poems, essays and articles. What emerges is a passionate political activist who sought always to put his art at the service of anti-racism, anti-fascism, and social and economic justice. It is not always a pretty picture we get of this notoriously mercurial figure, but it is never less than a lively and fascinating one.
Just the facts but no personality disclosed. Could not even read it.
While the author acknowledges that the political agenda of the CPUSA was under the control of the Soviet Union during the years of Guthrie's allegiance to the Party, he is unwilling or unable to explain how an apparently smart, compassionate person such as Guthrie could rationalize the many horrors committed by the totalitarian Soviet state. Although the CPUSA was often at the forefront of the civil rights, workers' rights and anti-fascist struggles of the thirties and forties, even when and where advocating for those causes was unpopular and dangerous, it was also quick to subordinate those struggles to the political interests of the Soviet Union when Soviet policy required it (e.g. during the period of the Stalin-Hitler Pact).Couldn't Guthrie have been a progressive without being an apologist for Stalinism?
In addition, although Kaufman documents Guthrie's resistance to collective decision-making as a sometime member of the Almanac Singers, he doesn't explore the hypocrisy of a "communist" such as Guthrie refusing to reconcile his priorities to those of the group. It's clear that Guthrie wasn't much of a capitalist, but with respect to his main passion in life, song writing, he was more individualist than collectivist.
The author's failure to dig beneath the surface of the major political conflicts of Guthrie's times and his failure to explore the inconsistencies between his personal behavior and his public positions constitute major flaws. That's why I can only give it three stars.