Professor informs about Dust Bowl through music

Abbey Whittington, Staff Reporter

To tie in with Booth Library’s spring exhibit on the Dust Bowl, a presentation will profile the music of Woody Guthrie.

The presentation, titled “Dust Bowl Ballads: Woody Guthrie and the Politics of the Working Class,” will take place Wednesday in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

To accompany the songwriter’s political lyrics, this musical program has been planned in conjunction with the national traveling exhibition, “Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry” which will be in the library until Feb. 26.

J.B. Faires, professor of music, will be giving the presentation on both Guthrie’s biography and the idea of Guthrie as the “quintessential folk composer.”

Not only will Faires be performing and discussing Guthrie’s songs from this album, but he will also be honing in on Guthrie’s search for the “American Dream” in Southern California during the late 1930s.

Both the musical program and the exhibit discuss how the Dust Bowl had affected others.

Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter and musician who grew up in the Dust Bowl era and played protest folk and children’s songs, one of the most popular being “This Land is Your Land.”

His music has also inspired artists who would later become famous, like Bob Dylan, who wrote a song in honor of Guthrie called “Song to Woody.”

Guthrie is considered a major spokesperson of the Dust Bowl through his lyrics, which discuss many other issues as well.

His words brush over many topics such as the treatment toward the Dust Bowl migrants, the Great Depression and how capitalism affects the working poor.

Beth Heldebrandt, the public relations director for Booth Library, helped do research to put this exhibit together.

Heldebrandt said the exhibit showcases many different aspects of the Dust Bowl such as photography, medical effects and music.

“A lot of his music directly related to other programs that are apart of the exhibit,” Heldebrandt said.

Faires plans to focus on Guthrie’s album “Dust Bowl Ballads” and how the album manages to show the importance of early 20th century folk music.

“The greatest success of his ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’ album was to portray his subjects in humanistic terms even while making an economic or political point, causing the general public to question whether the American capitalist system was serving the interests of the working poor,” Faires said.


Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]