Okie Gets Genre-Bending Facelift
How do you get a neighborhood of Hipsters and Hip-Hoppers to celebrate a hillbilly musician named Woody? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Musicians of all genres have a soft spot for the hard-traveling, plainspoken troubadour and his uplifting songs about living through tough times. The issues addressed by many contemporary musicians are the same that Guthrie wrote about in Los Angeles more than 70 years ago – bank foreclosures, homelessness, deportations, migrant labor, union busting, racism and other forms of discrimination.
Angelinos are invited to a daylong birthday tribute to the “Dustiest of Dust Bowl Refugees” Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at El Centro del Pueblo, in the Echo Park neighborhood Woody once called home. Guthrie was born on July 14 (Bastille Day), 1912. He died in 1967 after a long bought with Huntington’s disease.
The birthday bash will include a free concert, picnic, exhibit and art activities for kids. Woody tunes and Woody-inspired music will be performed by Contra Cultura Hip Hop artist Olmeca, “Rockupier” Michelle Shocked and Krip Hop Nation Founder Leroy Moore.
Leroy Moore was so moved by stories of Woody’s final years at Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey that he penned a poem he will perform on a stage set with of photos a decaying Greystone.
Guthrie lived poor and relatively unknown most of his life. With the rise of folk music during his final year, Woody became something of a living legend. In 1961, the young Bob Dylan made a pilgrimage to his folk idol at Greystone Hospital, where Woody was suffering from Huntington’s, a wasting disease that attacks the brain and affects motor skills.
Jazz composer Kevin Robison will perform a piece based on Guthrie’s tune “Slipknot,” about a 1911 lynching in Woody’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. Robinson will appear with his large ensemble Conference of the Birds.
Blues musician S.S. Jones, founder of The Skid Row Musicians’ Network, will play music by Woody’s great friend, Lead Belly. Others in the lineup: Country-rock musician and Guthrie scholar Darryl Holter, Walter Spencer, Daniel Brummel Heather Lockie and Carter Wallace. We will finish up the day with a Psychedelic Second Line Parade led by The SuperbrokeBrass and Tin and Strings Electric Marching Band Ensemble.
Guthrie lived and spent time in Echo Park between 1939 -1941. Through his friendship with Echo Park (“Red Hill”) resident and fellow radio programmer Ed Robbin, Guthrie met novelist Theodore Dreiser, actor Will Geer, John Steinbeck and other leftist intellectuals and artists. From his home on Preston Street, Guthrie started to write his semi-autobiographical book, Bound for Glory. He alsocomposed some of his early children’s songs that have enchanted young people for generations. During this time Guthrie made many trips to farm worker camps in California’s Central Valley, where he sang for Okies, Arkies, Texans, Mexicans, Filipinos and other groups of migrant laborers. Those trips will be discussed at the event during a “history breakfast” from 10 a.m. –12 p.m.
The Trailer Trash Project operates out of a vintage trailer to bring free events to local neighborhoods around Los Angeles. It was co-founded in 2010 by actor Sam Breen and writer Lydia Breen. They collaborate with a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary group of artists who share a common interest in using art to explore the meaning of home and community.
“A Better World’s A-Comin’” has received assistance from The Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, The Puffin Foundation and the Woody Guthrie Foundation. KPFK-FM (Pacifica) is our media sponsor.
A Better World’s A-Coming: An Echo Park Tribute to Woody Guthrie on his 100th Birthday
Saturday, July 14, 2001
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
El Centro del Pueblo
1157 Lemoyne Street
Los Angeles, 90026
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Children’s concert and story telling
History Breakfast and Exhibit
12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Backyard Picnic with
Woody’s favorite Cowboy Stew, biscuits, cornbread, tamales, birthday cake – and more!
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
After- hours concert (TBA)