Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Woody Guthrie - Bound For Glory

Woody tells a descriptive tale of his youth, of his father gaining and losing money and properties (the
family was actually fairly well off at the beginning), of the oil boom and the coming the oil workers and all of the hangers-on to prosperity – gamblers, hookers, drug dealers and more. He spins his tale so that you can truly picture the characters and the sights of his town.

The nice house that Woody was born into was burned to the ground, with no cause ever truly discovered, and this started his mother’s slow descent. They moved into a house that everyone hated, which was destroyed by a cyclone, then into a better place where things seemed to remain calm for a while until Woody’s sister died after catching fire (fire haunting them again and again) when she stayed home from school to iron clothes (which at the time meant heating from a pot belly stove). Their mother spiraled down further after that, to the point of being diagnosed as insane – with raving spells – and epileptic. Of course, their deteriorating financial situation (the father’s health kept him from securing any decent jobs after he fell out of the housing business) exacerbated the situation further. After she mysteriously burned his father, she was sent away to an asylum and Woodie & his brother did what they could to get by.

Lots happens over the years as Woody grows up, learns to get by, and eventually hobo’s across the country, which he details pretty specifically. After his early biography and this first trip, he then tells sporadic tales of individual incidents, rather than trying to detail his entire life and career. He describes the characters that he meets along the way – mostly laborers, servicemen, gamblers, musicians, migrant workers and more hobos. His career is only touched upon and there are no details of any of his recordings or concerts, other than occasionally playing in dive bars for tips and eating money. He prefers to talk about the other people that he meets rather than himself, so this is only marginally an autobiography.

Despite this, it is a fine and colorful read of a time and situations that most of us living today can barely imagine.