Locals set to honor Guthrie and Steinbeck
Via “A Tribute To Woody Guthrie” show Saturday, the Nevada County Library joins venues throughout the country in honoring John Steinbeck, born 100 years ago.
From September 2001 through next month, the Mercantile Library of New York and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas are asking cultural institutions to spotlight Steinbeck’s books in special presentations. Steinbeck, born and raised in Salinas, won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes.
In conjunction with the celebrations, the California Council for the Humanities is encouraging all state residents to read Steinbeck’s “The Grapes Of Wrath.” He received a Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for the book about the living conditions and exploitation of farm workers during the Great Depression.
Saturday’s tribute to Guthrie, an all-ages show, includes performances by locals Utah Phillips, Bodhi Busick, Charlie Brock and Marina Bokelman.
The folk singer was linked to Steinbeck because they wrote about the same times and concerns.
“Both men were writing around the same time with the same humanitarian concerns,” said Bokelman, a Nevada County Library assistant who will sing some of her favorite Guthrie songs.
The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas was host to an extensive “This Land is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie” exhibit last year.
“There’s a lot of parallels between them. Steinbeck captured the Dust Bowl in words, Guthrie captured the Dust Bowl in songs,” said Amanda Holder, the center’s director of marketing.
Bokelman created Saturday’s tribute to include Guthrie in the nationwide Steinbeck celebrations. “Woody was such an amazing person. He wrote over 3,000 songs and wrote for everyone,” she said.
Brock opens the tribute with a 20-minute children’s singalong.
“I’ve always played Woody Guthrie songs to my kids when they were infants. His music speaks to children and adults alike,” he said.
Phillips will perform “The Ballad of Tom Joad,” which Guthrie modeled after Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” The last time Phillips sang the 10-minute song publicly was in Utah in 1967, when he opened a Utah Migrant Council general meeting.
“Both voices are a testimony to the hardships of the times. I love the public library. This is a very appropriate use of the people’s property,” Phillips said.
“It’s a big hall full of books, but there’s a lot of empty space that could be used for live entertainment.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: 3A Tribute To Woody Guthrie²
WHEN: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Nevada County Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City
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