Multimedia Collection

Roll On Columbia: Woody Guthrie & the Bonneville Power Administration

57 minutes
ML429 .G95 R61 1999

"All you can write is what you see." - Woody Guthrie

In early May of 1941, an unemployed Woody Guthrie and his wife, Mary, packed their three children into a battered Pontiac and left southern California for Portland, Oregon. All he had waiting for him in the Northwest was the vague possibility of writing songs for a documentary film about the dams being built on the Columbia River.

When Guthrie arrived with his guitar and family, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) took pity and gave him a thirty-day contract as a temporary employee, paid at the rat of $266.66 per month. Guthrie was expected to write a song a day - which he nearly did, producing 26 songs in 30 days, including American folk classics Roll on Columbia, Jackhammer Blues, Pastures of Plenty, and Grand Coulee Dam.

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