HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA — He lived through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II, and the Cold War. He was a folk and protest singer, a political activist blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee ("I ain't a communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life."), and a writer of more than 1,000 songs and 2,500 complete lyrics. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was one of those rare artists who had a positive impact on society as well as on others in his profession, and Bound for Glory: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie offers an impressive interactive memorial to this folk legend.
Hosted by the Museum of Musical Instruments (which, despite its inclusive name, seems to be exclusively concerned with guitars), Bound For Glory was created to complement a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of Guthrie's work, which began touring the country in 1999.
A Flash splash screen rotates images of the artist while playing an archival audio clip of Guthrie introducing one of his songs (a clip that now serves to introduce the exhibition itself), and the main index page offers visitors an introductory essay and divides the exhibition into five segments.
Dust Bowl Blues takes Guthrie from childhood in Oklahoma and Pampa, Texas (and such bands as the Corncob Trio and the Pampa Chamber of Commerce Band), to his move to the West Coast at 25 - during the Dust Bowl. Garden of Eden recounts his growing awareness of the immense gap between rich and poor, reflected in such songs as "(If you ain't got the) Do-Re-Mi." Bound for Glory follows the singer to New York, and Roll on Columbia describes work he did commemorating the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam - a project which brought affordable electricity to lower income communities. Finally, So Long, It's Been Good To Know You looks at Guthrie's legacy, including his influence on such later songwriters as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Billy Bragg.
While the material isn't exhaustive (you can find additional information at The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives), it does provide a fairly thorough summary of Guthrie's life. The text is peppered with thumbnails that open into new-window/full-screen images, accompanied by detailed captions. Files also include drawings by Guthrie and the original manuscript of "This Land is Your Land."
A bar at the top of each section links to RealAudio files of Guthrie songs and interviews. These bare-bones recordings might take some getting used to for those raised on the digitally enhanced vocals and mercilessly overproduced arrangements of many current releases, but they make an effective illustration of the appeal of substance over style. (An appeal reflected in the recent resurgence of 'roots' music.) For musicians, the sheet music to four of Guthrie's most famous songs is onsite - and as for the artist's views about other people performing his material, the museum includes a statement Guthrie himself placed in a mimeographed book of his songs,
"This song is Copyrighted in US, under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."
While the website is available in sizes to fit various screen resolutions, it may not feed you the size best suited for your machine. So if you find that you're doing more side-to-side scrolling than you would like, simply change the number at the end of the Index page's URL http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie/index_1024.html- to a smaller screen size - like 800.html, or 640.html.
Bound For Glory: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie can be found at http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie/index.html.