OKLAHOMA CITY – (AP) Entertainer Arlo Guthrie and other family members led the singing at the Oklahoma State Capitol July 15 to celebrate the unveiling of a portrait of his father, legendary folk artist Woody Guthrie.
The painting by Charles Banks Wilson is titled, “This Land Was Made for You And Me,” a refrain from “This Land Is Your Land,” the folk anthem that is among an estimated 1,000 songs Guthrie is credited with writing.
“This is totally cool,” said Arlo of the honor for his father, who in the past was sometimes shunned in conservative Oklahoma because of the reputation he earned in the 1930s when his songs promoted unionism and reviled banks and other institutions.
One of the songs performed at the Capitol by Arlo, his children and other family members was a tribute to Pretty Boy Floyd, the 1930s outlaw considered sort of a Robin Hood by some downtrodden Oklahomans. It contained the lines:
“Now, as through this world I ramble, I see lots of funny men. Some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen. But as through your life you travel, and through your life you roam, you will never see an outlaw drive a family from their home.”
Mary Jo Edgmon of Seminole, Okla., Woody’s 81-year-old sister, helped unveil the painting. She said Guthrie loved Oklahoma and always said, “I would be mighty proud if you would just write Okie on my tombstone.”
Wilson, who has also painted portraits of famous Oklahomans Will Rogers and Jim Thorpe, donated his $20,000 fee to the local chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Foundation of America. Guthrie died from the disease in 1967.
Guy Logsdon, Oklahoma historian, said Guthrie was a poet-philosopher whose status in American literature would continue to grow. Some literary critics are already calling him “the Walt Whitman of the 20th century,” Logsdon said.