Pastures of Plenty: A Self Portrait
The Unpublished Writings
"Woody is just Woody...He sings the songs of a people. And I suspect that he is, in a way, that people...There is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American Spirit." - John Steinbeck
In 1988, Dave Marsh, author and music critic, was invited by Harold Leventhal, Woody's agent, to peruse Woody's writings in the hopes of publishing a new book. At that time, there was no "official" archives. There were simply file drawers, boxes, scrapbooks, and portfolios each filled to the brim with Woody's writings, notebooks, diaries and correspondence.
Dave wrote: "When Harold Leventhal asked if I'd be interested in editing what he called "the Woody Guthrie scrapbook,"' a collection of previously unpublished material, my reaction was cool. Woody's words had already been collected so many times over that it seemed unlikely the leftovers would add anything new to our picture of him. And it was the end of the eighties: Who needed more agitprop?...
Lenin: "Where three balalaika players meet, the fourth one ought to be a communist."
Me: "Where three communists meet, the fourth one ought to be a guitar player."
It's not easy to get Dave Marsh's attention. His noted books on such infamous musicians as Bruce Springsteen (GLORY DAYS), The Who (BEFORE I GET OLD) and Michael Jackson (TRAPPED: MICHAEL JACKSON AND THE CROSSOVER DREAM) might have numbed him to less popular artists. However, a blowup of a small photo taken in a 25 cent photo booth in 1940 hooked him. His intuitive reaction led him on an eighteen month journey through Woody's writings."
Part of what makes this new assortment of Woody's writings so fascinating is the frequency with which the words here conflict with his image as it has been passed down over the three decades since Huntington's chorea stilled his public voice", Woody writes:
Dave muses, "For Woody,...this pursuit of socialism may well begin in the search for a solution to a dilemma more existential than economic or political.
"To be lonesome is one of the first mistakes you can make and lots of fellers make a business out of it and claim that it's a good thing. No, it's a bad one." - Woody Guthrie
Dave Marsh's selection of writings is a profound and historic addition to our understanding Woody Guthrie. He has opened a door for us to enter, to read what was in Woody's mind, to feel his process, that no one since has ever done.