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Woody Guthrie’s music topic of program in Valley City

Carole Flatau will speak on “The Music of Woody Guthrie: The Power of Song” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Barnes County Museum. The presentation is part of the Barnes County Historical Society Lecture Series Season 16.

Folk singer Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) left a legacy broader than, “This Land is Your Land,” his most famous song. He wrote more than a thousand songs.

Born in Oklahoma, he rode the freight trains during the Depression, a dust bowl migrant, doing whatever he needed to do to survive, with songs about the land and the people. His songs didn’t beat around the bush: he told things as they were, in words easy to understand.

His careers covered a wide range. He recorded songs for the Library of Congress, he wrote newspaper columns and had radio shows, and he was briefly on the New York stage. He wrote the songs for the documentary about the building of the Grand Coulee Dam. He joined the Almanac Singers, a folk-protest group, which had concerts the group called “hootenannys.” His songs made him a spokesman for the poor and downtrodden; he sang about the struggle in using the land but also saving it. His protest songs recorded by him and groups such as The Weavers, and Peter, Paul and Mary had far-reaching political implications.

Guthrie, a visible and vocal force, raised huge amounts of money in war bond drives; he had run-ins with the unions and the communist party.

Flatau is an avid promoter of the importance of folk music, saying it connects people to their historical and cultural roots. She served as the National Federation of Music folk music chairman from 2003-2009, and since then has been NFMC chairman of Together We Sing, a nationwide project to connect people vocally to their heritage. After 15 years in the music industry, she returned to her hometown of Valley City in 2000, where she is a piano teacher, church organist, music editor, and adjudicator and serves on various boards and committees.

All lectures are at the Barnes County Historical Society Museum and held in conjunction with Valley City State University. They are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Wes Anderson at 701-845-0966.