‘Woody Guthrie: Re-envisioning 1930s America’ Lecture/Recital Saturday at the Frank House

KrisAnn Sullivan
Frank House director, 308.865.8284 OR sullivankw@unk.edu

UNK– A University of Nebraska at Kearney English professor and a local musician combine talents to present “Woody Guthrie: Re-envisioning 1930s America” Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Frank House.

“This musical program celebrates Woody Guthrie as America’s first singer-songwriter; it both entertains and offers an historical context for listening to Woody Guthrie’s folk music,” said Dr. Kate Benzel, UNK Martin Distinguished English professor.

The Frank House lecture/performance, which is part of the “Saturdays at the Frank House” series, will begin at 1:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. The Frank House is located on the UNK West Campus. The presentation is being sponsored in part by the Nebraska Humanities Council.

Performing Guthrie’s music will be Kearney singer-songwriter Mike Adams. Together, Dr. Benzel and Adams will present the lecture/recital program by discussing America in the 1930s and by looking at Guthrie’s songs and writing from the period. The lecture will be combined with excerpts from Guthrie’s autobiography, “Bound for Glory,” and interpretations of his songs “Deportee,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Hobo’s Lullaby,” “Ramblin’ Round,” “Union Maid,” “Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done,” “Oklahoma Hills” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

“Guthrie’s songs and writing embrace the brashness of the American pioneer spirit, a compassion for the underdog and the often-contradictory nature of American diversity,” Dr. Benzel said. “In particular, his experiences in the Midwest, especially the 1930s crises of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, underscore this American character. Guthrie’s songs, in fact, provide historical documents of this time when American values of persistence and endurance, of hard work and sacrifice, are tested by adversity.

“The tradition of dealing with cultural crises has carried on with contemporary singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and singer-songwriters from other music genres,” she said. “The lecture will conclude with a performance of Guthrie’s songs and Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” Steve Earle’s “The Mountain” and Merle Haggard’s “Hungry Eyes.”

“Woody Guthrie: Re-envisioning 1930s” is one of 300 programs offered through the Nebraska Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. More than 165 speakers discuss topics ranging from pioneer heritage to ethics and law to international and multicultural issues. According to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nebraska Humanities Council sponsors the largest Speakers Bureau program in the U.S.

The Nebraska Humanities Council (NHC) provides major funding for this program. The NHC receives support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nebraska State Legislature, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and private donations.