CULTURAL WORKINGS

Welcome to THE CULTURAL WORKER, a blog dedicated to protest arts on the Left ranging from the radical avant garde to revolutionary folk song. This blog is aligned with John Pietaro's revolutionary music website www.DissidentArts.com . The Cultural Worker celebrates art at its boldest and features a variety of articles, reviews, fiction, essays and musings by myself--a musician, writer, and labor organizer by design. Scroll straight down and you'll also find also find an extensive, ever-expanding Photo Exhibit of cultural workers in action, and a series of Radical Arts Links. The features herein will be decidedly revolutionary and unabashedly partisan---make no mistake about that. The neo-fascists and the slaves to capital and conformity will find no words of warmth in the content of this blog. The concept of the cultural worker as a force of fearless creativity, of social change, indeed as an artistic arm of radicalism, has always been left-wing when applied with any degree of honesty at all. No revolutionary act can be truly complete in the absence of art, no progressive campaign can retain its message sans the daring drumbeat of invention, no act of dissent can stand so strong as that which counts the musicians, writers, painters, dancers, actors and performance artists within its ranks. Here's to the history and legacy of cultural work in the throes of the good fight...
john pietaro

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Who, What and Where of THE DISSIDENT ARTS FESTIVAL


Regular readers of this blog will by now recognize the name of the festival I founded in 2006. Below is a detailed account of this year's Dissident Arts excursion....

THE DISSIDENT ARTS FESTIVAL THE 6th ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF PROGRESSIVE CULTURE
August 13, 4PM - 11PM The Brecht Forum 451 West Street (between Bank and Bethune streets), New York NY 212-242-4201 www.brechtforum.org

Producer/Organizer – John Pietaro, Poetry Director- Steve Bloom

New York, NY: In the midst of reactionary fear-mongering, ongoing war, rising unemployment and a right-wing assault on organized labor, progressive artists speak out for social justice. The Dissident Arts Festival, now in its sixth year, is a platform for cultural workers to create, sing, recite, improvise, act and orate against war and inequity and in honor of the struggle of workers and the globally oppressed. Event organizer John Pietaro, a cultural and labor organizer, is proud to present the Dissident Arts Festival in conjunction with the Brecht Forum.

Festival performers include:
San Francisco’s radical poetry/jazz ensemble UPSURGE!
Explosive post-modern jazz SECRET ARCHITECTURE
Art Deco-damaged protest music RADIO NOIR
Jazz violinist/vocalist GWEN LASTER and her ensemble
Topical singer/songwriter JUDY GORMAN
Political satirist DAVE LIPPMAN
Labor/peace choir THE NYC METRO RAGING GRANNIES
And Poets STEVE BLOOM, JACKIE SHEELER, ANGELO VERGA, MARY ELLEN SANGER, ROBERT GIBBONS, SARA GOUDARZI

The Festival will open with a screening of the long-blacklisted film ‘SALT OF THE EARTH’; discussion led by film artist KEVIN KEATING will follow

Now a Manhattan mainstay, the Dissident Arts Festival was founded in upstate NY in 2006 with a primary goal of establishing an annual showcase of politically progressive music, poetry and performance art---perhaps the only such vehicle in the nation. This Festival has sought to bring together a wide variety of sounds and styles, tearing down boundaries, bending rules and infusing the arts with the strongest, most radical activism, where folk-protest song meets free improvisation and contemporary composition. Featured among our past performers and speakers were actor/raconteur Malachy McCourt, folk legend Pete Seeger, poet Louis Reyes Rivera, revolutionary hip hop group ReadNex Poetry Squad, protest/garage band The Last Internationale, labor luminary Henry Foner, topical singer Bev Grant, ‘anti-folk’ singer Lach, jazz artist Ben Barson and filmmaker Kevin Keating (“Giuliani Time”). And we presented tributes to Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Bertolt Brecht and Phil Ochs along the way. As of 2010, the Festival became affiliated with NYC’s Brecht Forum, a center of Left education and culture which has proven itself the perfect host of the Dissident Arts Festival. This year, Dissident Arts focuses on the improvisational and modernist heart of Protest Music while also featuring topical folk/acoustic performance, radical film and revolutionary poetry.

The arts ARE a weapon for social change…….
FILM: 4:00 PM – 5:30 – Screening of ‘SALT OF THE EARTH’ 5:30 – 6:15 - Discussion of ‘Salt of the Earth’ led by film artist KEVIN KEATING CONCERT: 6:15 – 6:45 - Gwen Laster Ensemble 6:45-6:55 - Steve Bloom /Mary Ellen Sanger 6:55 – 7:25 - Judy Gorman 7:25-7:35 - Mary Ellen Sanger/Jackie Sheeler 7:35 – 7:45 – NYC Metro Raging Grannies 7:45-7:55 - Jackie Sheeler/ Sara Goudarzi 7:55-8:25 - Upsurge! 8:25-8:35 – Robert Gibbons/ Sara Goudarzi 8:35 – 9:05 - Radio Noir 9:05-9:15 – Robert Gibbons/Angelo Verga 9:15 – 9:45 - Dave Lippman 9:45-9:55 – Angelo Verga/Steve Bloom 10:00- 10:30 - Secret Architecture
Festival Participants – in order of appearance
-Kevin Keating: filmmaker Kevin Keating has dozens of film and television credits over a varied career that has taken him all over the world. His passion for political filmmaking led him to productions with the Maysles Brothers and two-time Academy Award Winner Barbara Kopple, among others. Most noted for his cinematography on the brilliant “Harlan County USA”, Keating also worked on the noted Rolling Stones film “Gimme Shelter” and was staff cinematographer for WNET’s “The 51st State”. Other credits include “The Grateful Dead Movie”, “When We Were Kings”, “On Company Business” (a PBS documentary about the CIA) and “Hells Angels Forever”, which he co-directed. “Giuliani Time” represents Kevin’s most recent project as Producer/Director of a major feature documentary. This work has earned him such accolades as “Communist filmmaker joins unions in NYC to push Obama-Dodd financial takeover bill” (Andrew Breibart’s BigGovernment blog!)

-Gwen Laster: jazz violinist/vocalist; ensemble TBA. Gwen Laster performs and records internationally with a wide variety of artists in the jazz, concert, popular, avant garde and multi-cultural music genres. Artists she has worked with include Shakira (Obama inaugural concert), Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Leroy Jenkins, Anthony Braxton, Joe Giardullo, Shaggy, Aretha Franklin, Joss Stone and Haitian vocalist Emeline Michel. Her chamber and orchestral work includes Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Harlem Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Sugar Hill Classical Band and The Braxton Opera "Shala". Laster has released two compact discs as a leader; she is currently recording "The Gameboard", based on the readings of Steve Rother's book "Re-member” and inspired by Eastern Philosophy. For more info see www.gwenlaster.com

-Steve Bloom: poet Steve is a long-time social activist and poet who lives in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been published extensively in both print and on-line journals. He has been a featured poet at readings as far away as Bakersfield, California. Steve is founder and host of the Activist Poets' Roundtable in New York City and today serves as Poetry Director of the Dissident Arts Festival. “Steve Bloom is a poet worth listening to”—Dennis Brutus, South African poet and political activist. Be sure to stop by www.stevebloompoetry.com for more on Steve

-Judy Gorman: acoustic topical singer/songwriter Judy performs in clubs, festivals, universities, peace & social justice events in over ten countries & forty-nine of these United States and has been on programs with Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, Moby, Richie Havens, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pete Seeger, Suzanne Vega, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Odetta, Susan Sarandon, and was a featured performer on the very first Dissident Arts Festival in 2006. She recently released THE RISING OF US ALL - 18 songs of peace & justice, women & work, struggle and celebration. This follows her disc, ANALOG GIRL IN A DIGITAL WORLD. "Her rich throaty vocals are as affecting as her thoughtful, often political lyrics” – ‘Ms. Magazine’. For more info see www.cdbaby.com/judygorman

-Mary Ellen Sanger: poet Mary Ellen lived for 17 years in Mexico, and has published short stories and poems in Spanish and English in several Mexican journals, including Luna Zeta and Zocalo. She has published poetry, essays, and stories in online venues, including Poets Against the War, Mexconnect, Mexico Files, and r.kv.ry. Her essay “A Grammar of Place” was anthologized in Mexico, a Love Story. She is currently writing a collection of short stories inspired by the women of Ixcotel State Penitentiary in Oaxaca, Mexico where she spent thirty-three days and nights falsely imprisoned in the fall of 2003. Stories from the collection have appeared in CrossBronx and J Journal, New Writing on Justice (from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice).

-NYC Metro Raging Grannies: labor/anti-war choir The Raging Grannies are an international coalition comprised of local and regional groups of mature women who sing parodies set to familiar tunes to promote peace, justice, human rights and a green planet. The New York City Metro gaggle features Corinne Willinger, Mercy Van Vlack and Sunny Armer and is accompanied by Pamela Drake on guitar.

-Jackie Sheeler: poet/singer/songwriter Award-winning poet and songwriter, Jackie has two CDs and three books under her belt so far. Her most recent collection, “Earthquake Came to Harlem,” was published by NY Quarterly Books in 2010; a CD of original songs is coming out this fall. An occasional blogger and card-carrying activist, Jackie enjoys committing random acts of kindness and random acts of righteous indignation in equal measure. Find out more: http://jackiesheeler.com

-Upsurge!: San Francisco’s radical jazz and poetry ensemble Zigi Lowenberg- JazzPoetry Vocals/Raymond Nat Turner- JazzPoetry Vocals/Tony Jones- tenor saxophone/ Rudi Mwongozi- piano/Bryce Sebastian- bass/Larry Johnson- drums
UpSurge! is a free-pushing jazz band with two strong poets out front, Raymond Nat Turner and Zigi Lowenberg, who chant, shout, sing, whisper, dance and speak their message. Combining poetry and jazz, male and female, Los Angeles and New York, Jewish and African-American, UpSurge! crosses boundaries, twists expectations, moves minds, and incites action while always holding true to the rhythm. The ensemble opened the historic rally in October 2001 at Oakland City Hall in support of then embattled Congresswoman Barbara Lee after her courageous, lone vote against invading Afghanistan along with Danny Glover, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed. From a flatbed truck in March 2003 they kicked off the march from Mosswood Park to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The radical repertoire of UpSurge! includes new takes on Jazz standards, folk songs and classic JazzPoetry works. "Tough fun" - Holly Near. www.wireonfire.com/upsurge

-Sara Goudarzi : poet New York City writer and performer of poetry, Sara was born in Tehran and grew up in Iran, Kenya, and the U.S. Her writing has appeared in The Adirondack Review, National Geographic News, The Christian Science Monitor, and Drunken Boat, among others. She is the founder and co-editor of /One/ The Journal of Literature, Art and Ideas. Her CD, Oryan, Selected Poems of Baba Taher, in collaboration with Kees van den Doel, is available on CD Baby. Sara also teaches writing at NYU and is working on a first novel. Her website: www.saragoudarzi.com.

-Radio Noir: Art Deco-damaged protest music
John Pietaro-Xylophone, Voice/Quincy Saul-Clarinet/Javier Miyares-Electric Guitar/Laurie Towers-Electric Bass
Radio Radio Noir will offer their debut performance at this year’s Dissident Arts Festival. The ensemble reflects the fervent radicalism and sounds of the 1930s even as it embraces the ethics of downtown newmusic.
---Xylophonist John Pietaro
’s work reflects the xylophone soloists of the 1920s and a century of rogue percussionists and revolutionary composers, and is driven by protest songs, out jazz, punk rock and Marxism. He has performed with Alan Ginsberg, Fred Ho, Pete Seeger, the Flames of Discontent, others and writes widely for the Left press and his own blog. He works professionally in the labor movement.
---Clarinetist Quincy Saul , is a performer and social activist immersed in a radical vision of his instrument even as he reaches into its rich jazz heritage. He is a member of Scientific Soul Sessions in Harlem, a research associate for the ecosocialist journal 'Capitalism Nature Socialism', and a writer with a blog at www.smashthisscreen.blogstpot.com. A student of Fred Ho, Quincy performs throughout the NY area.
---Guitarist Javier Miyares-Hernandez
is a performer, composer and producer. Currently he is the creative director of 17 Frost Theater Of The Arts in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and performs with Sineparade, The Phonometricians On Cosmic Fire, and Radio Noir. Visit: www.javiermiyares.com for more information
---Bassist Laurie Towers, a featured soloist with the Flames of Discontent, embraces traditions for the electric bass in jazz, R&B, and rock and has forged a ‘lead bass’ style which is reflective of her influences Carol Kaye, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorious and Charlie Haden. Towers is a feminist, an activist and an entrepreneur and has served as a mentor to at-risk girls and victims of domestic violence.

-Robert Gibbons: poet Robert is a writer living in New York City. He has published in the recent edition of ‘the Uphook Anthology’. In addition, Mr. Gibbons has published in ‘the Palm Beach Post’ and ‘the Riverdale Press’. A performance poet, he has performed all over New York City including the Cornelia Street Cafe, Small's Jazz Night Club, and Nightingales.

-Dave Lippman & Bard of the Bankers: progressive satirist To keep the festival fairly unbalanced, Dave Lippman will present Wild Bill Bailout, the Bard of the Bankers. Lippman is widely known on many coasts and in some interiors for his sharp send-ups of topical subjects ranging from weapons of mass distraction to SUVs and the wars to defend them. He has toured widely in the United States, Europe, Australia, and war-zones of Central America in a 35-year musical career. Ex-CIA agent John Stockwell declared Lippman prescient for writing a song about the Grenada "rescue" a year before it happened; Lippman declared it manifest destiny, based on the size of the island. For all this and more be sure to see http://davelippman.com

-Angelo Verga: poet Angelo is a poet, teacher, editor, manuscript doctor and curator of innumerable literary events. His sixth collection, Praise for What Remains (Three Rooms Press, 2009), is a long poem set in the crooked footpaths of lower Manhattan. He has been widely published and anthologized, and translated into a dozen languages. His earlier publications include 33 New York City Poems (Booklyn, 2005), 3 Poets 4 Peace (Against The Tide, 2003), A Hurricane Is (Jane Street, 2002), The Six O’clock News (Wind, 1999) and Across The Street from Lincoln Hospital (New School, 1995)

-Secret Architecture: post-modern jazz on the edge
Fraser Campbell – Saxophone/JJ Byars – Saxophone/Julian Smith – Bass/Zach Mangan – Drums
Secret Architecture is a creative improvisational Jazz group co founded by Fraser Campbell (Perth) and Zach Mangan (USA). Since meeting at Berklee College of Music and forming the group in 2006, they have performed successfully in many diverse and creative venues including Ibeam, Roulette, Rochester Art Center and The Cedar Cultural Center , tours of Scotland and live air-shots on BBC radio have created a notable stir for the group in Europe; they will be returning to the continent later this year. Meanwhile back in NY they hold a weekly residence at Caffe Vivaldi, one of New York City’s premier jazz venues. Secret Architecture is a “Working Group” completely free of sheet music and playing with total group interplay. The group have developed their own unique voice with an eclectic range of musical influences ranging from the likes of Ornette Coleman, Olivier Messiaen and Bjork. Don’t forget to visit: http://secretarchitecture.com

In the midst of reactionary fear-mongering, ongoing war, rising unemployment and a right-wing assault on organized labor, revolutionary artists speak out for social justice. The Dissident Arts Festival, now in its sixth year, is a platform for cultural workers to create, sing, recite, improvise, act and orate against war and inequity and in honor of the struggle of workers and the globally oppressed.

Festival Organizer/Producer/Host: John Pietaro
Festival Poetry Director/Host: Steve Bloom
The Dissident Arts Festival is co-produced with the Brecht Forum
-To join our mailing list write to leftmus@earthlink.net-

We’d like to thank all of the revolutionary cultural workers whose presence makes this event possible --as well as all of those who came before us to inspire generations of radical activists to take a stand for humanity, peace and a better world. The battle for social justice without the artists is stripped of its soul.

“In the dark times will there be singing? Yes, there will be singing about the dark times” – Bertolt Brecht.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Introducing RADIO NOIR


Introducing RADIO NOIR...

The Art Deco-damaged protest music of Radio Noir will be debuted at this year's Dissident Arts Festival. The new group, helmed by John Pietaro will offer a 1930s-tinged vision of so-called New Music by incorporating jazz, cabaret and early swing, into a format of protest music for today, reflecting the fervent radicalism of the Depression years while celebrating the post-punk free improv sounds of downtown. As per the call of the Festival for songs of revolution offered in new and daring ways, Radio Noir's set will be comprised of an adaption of the Brecht-Eisler classic "Song of the United Front", an original avant blues by Pietaro entitled "Langston" , an adaption of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty", a free improv over Hanns Eisler's statement against HUAC ("Fantasia in G-Men") and they will close with an exciting version of the dance standard "Temptation" by Nascio Herb Brown. Currently in rehearsal at 17 Frost Performance Theatre in Williamsburg Brooklyn, the band exudes an excitement that thrives on the agitated vibe of such combined time periods.

The line-up is as follows:

---Xylophonist John Pietaro’s work reflects the xylophone soloists of the 1920s and a century of rogue percussionists and revolutionary composers, and is further driven by protest songs, out jazz, punk rock and Marxism. He has performed with Alan Ginsberg, Fred Ho, Pete Seeger, the Flames of Discontent and others and is a contributing writer for ‘Z’, ‘Political Affairs, ‘the Nation’ and his blog ‘The Cultural Worker’. He works professionally in the labor movement.

---Clarinetist Quincy Saul , is a performer and social activist immersed in a radical vision of his instrument even as he reaches into its rich jazz heritage. He is a member of Scientific Soul Sessions in Harlem, a research associate for the ecosocialist journal 'Capitalism Nature Socialism', and a writer with a blog at www.smashthisscreen.blogstpot.com. A student of saxophonist/composer Fred Ho, Quincy performs throughout the NY area.

---Guitarist Javier Miyares is a performer, composer and producer. Currently he is the creative director of 17 Frost Theater Of The Arts in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and performs with Sineparade, The Phonometricians On Cosmic Fire, and Radio Noir. Visit: www.javiermiyares.com for more information

---Bassist Laurie Towers, a featured soloist with the Flames of Discontent, embraces traditions for the electric bass in jazz, R&B, rock and experimental music and has forged a ‘lead bass’ style which is reflective of her musical influences including Carol Kaye, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorious and Charlie Haden. Towers is a feminist, an activist and an entrepreneur and has served as a mentor to girls at risk and victims of domestic violence.

See this powerful new ensemble at the Dissident Arts Festival, Aug 13 2011, 4PM - 11PM (Radio Noir should hit the stage around 8:30), the Brecht Forum, NYC

Saturday, July 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Woody Guthrie - American Radical'


Book Review by JOHN PIETARO

Woody Guthrie: American Radical

by Will Kaufman, University of Illinois Press, 2011

Was a big high wall there/ That tried to stop me;

A sign atop it said: ‘Private Property’.

But on the other side/ It didn’t say nothing.

That side was made for you and me

In the annals of US folk culture, Woody Guthrie stands as both a father figure and an enigma. Composing biting songs of dissent simultaneous to allegories of our nation’s beauty, Guthrie has the distinction of being known today as a legend with a wide following, whereas in his own time he was followed by federal agents who viewed him as part of a folksinging conspiracy. Guthrie dedicated his life to fighting for the poor and working class but must be recalled as one who wandered through his responsibilities to the point of abandoning his first wife and children. While fighting for unions and against Jim Crow, he almost singlehandedly founded the modern protest song genre--but all too often sabotaged relevant components of it’s institutions with his propensity toward restlessness and infighting. The contradictions are maddening; Woody was deeply complex, shrouded in single-minded rebellion and a lifetime of folklore.

While historians of fairer heart than Will Kaufman may choose to focus on Guthrie’s populism and love of the land, in this well-paced and artfully composed biography, we are toured through the revolutionary core of the folk song revival and its leading exponent. The winding, multi-layered Left cultural movement of the 1930s and 40s grew from age-old folk songs before becoming infused with the radicalism of industrial toilers and the guiding hand of Marxism. It produced a relentless, daring body of work that not only protested the greed of capitalist exploitation but rang out in celebration of the workers’ pride. Woody Guthrie lived to create a repertoire exemplifying this fight for the common good and in order to do so thrust himself into the heart of organized labor, the early civil rights movement, the call for peace, the intensive battle against fascism and the struggle against right-wing oppression at home. Guthrie’s writing of both poetry and prose was prolific, almost obsessive, with his dissent nearly always worn proudly, just rude enough to be heard.

Woody Guthrie: American Radical opens with an introduction that offers some rationale for the drive toward Leftism Woody felt, exemplified by some of his song quotes and bits of prose, while also clarifying author Kaufman’s own journey through music and politics (Kaufman, in addition to being a university professor is also a singer and performing musician himself). Of Guthrie’s repertoire, Kaufman wrote: “His songs could have been sung anywhere from Camp Delt to Abu Gharib to the death-row cells of the Polunksky Unit in Texas…Instinctively I’d seized on Guthrie as a link to an almost forgotten America—perhaps an America never existed…”

With a tendency toward seeking out previously unseen lyrics and other rare Guthrie writings, Kaufman produces here a volume of great value to cultural workers and historians of both music and/or the Left. Most profoundly, Kaufman reels out the deep involvement Guthrie had with the Communist Party, initially in order to perform his song “Mr. Tom Mooney is Free”, written to commemorate the pardon of celebrated union activist Mooney who’d been wrongly imprisoned for over twenty years. And shortly thereafter met Will Geer with whom he would engage in much activism on behalf of migrant farmers in California.

Wonderful detail can be drawn from Kaufman’s account of this often cloudy period, particularly Guthrie’s connection to John Steinbeck and the fundraisers they engaged in together, especially ‘the Grapes of Wrath Benefit Concert’. And from the period song notebooks Kaufman examined in his research (he spent considerable time at the Woody Guthrie Archive in NY) one can find lyrics in which Guthrie reached for something often still out of grasp. Kaufman puts into focus the power of “This Land is Your Land” in its original phase: Guthrie’s song, initially called “God Blessed America for Me”, was composed during his anxiety-provoking cross-country trip to NY in the winter of ’39 as he contemplated the hungry and destitute migrants and the plight of a nation in the throes of depression. Irving Berlin’s song “God Bless America” somehow was all the rage. The hit record by Kate Smith blared from every jukebox and roadhouse but Guthrie saw in it not only a dangerous complacency but an even more dangerous blind patriotism.

Viewing Woody Guthrie as both a leader and a follower of the radical times in which he lived, Kaufman offers considerable background on other Communist cultural workers and cites the development of folksong within same. Woody’s devotion to the Party was conflicted at times and Kaufman offers a vision for Guthrie’s rationale about shifts in Party line in this period (ie- hard-line to Popular Front and back). The presence of figures such as Alan Lomax, Leadbelly, Aunt Molly Jackson, composer Hanns Eisler, writer Dashiell Hammet, poet Walter Lowenfells and of course the Almanac Singers is poignant. In Kaufman’s hands the deeply relevant topical song book ‘Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People’—a collaboration of Guthrie, Lomax and Pete Seeger—comes to life in these pages and his statement that it’s “reality is its core of anticapitalist anger that translates into Guthrie’s explicit call for socialist revolution”, is not simply telling but unique in the realm of Guthrie biographers.

Woody’s interconnectedness with the CPUSA is clear throughout this biography, well beyond the realm of 1940. Following the fascist invasion of the Soviet Union and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Party activism increased widely and the battle against Hitler was the distinct call. Guthrie’s work on this Second Popular Front is well documented here, his radio broadcasts, journalism, and songs such as “Round and Round Hitler’s Grave”, as well as his struggle with fleeting success and periods out to sea with the Merchant Marines. Kaufman, too, found newspaper articles which offer a contemporary insight into the work of the Almanac Singers, particularly an account by ‘Daily Worker’ columnist Mike Quinn who described a downtown subway ride with the Almanacs as they performed Woody’s song “The Sinking of the Reuben James” for the riders, who soon joined in on the chorus, all too aware of the perils of servicemen from the morning headlines.

Kaufman states, as have most other historians, that Woody Guthrie was never a member of the Communist Party, instead something of a cultural attaché in the best of times, citing that Woody did not have the discipline to be accepted (this reviewer disputes this following contact with Almanac Singer Sis Cunningham in 1998 who stated that the group, shortly after her arrival in NY, went to CP headquarters together to officially join the Party). However he brings to light something quite novel: Woody’s response to the post-1945 split between the hardliners and the group standing by moderate leader Earl Browder who had dissolved the Party into a Communist Political Association as an overture to the Roosevelt Administration during the War. Kaufman demonstrates that Guthrie wholeheartedly sided with the movement to re-establish the Party proper. Woody’s letters illustrate his anger as well as, in the same period, his growing concern about the sharp rightward turn of the nation during the early Cold War. Kaufman walks the reader through the minefield of Guthrie’s encounters with a broken, splintered Left in light of HUAC, the Tenney Committee, a rapidly deteriorating labor movement and the Peekskill Riot (which Guthrie was present for -- a vocal opponent of the neo-fascist mob which attacked the concert-goers).

The world within the pages of Woody Guthrie: American Radical begins to close in on Guthrie as he experiences this assault on civil liberties concurrent to the beginnings of Huntington’s Chorea. While one is challenged with such a vivid picture of debilitating illness, it is offered here with the backdrop of the later 1950s through the ‘60s, wherein Woody’s legend began to truly take hold. First-person accounts, snippets of his writings and his diminishing trips beyond institutional walls all bring to the facts an image that is multi-faceted. There is an account of Bob Dylan attempting to mold himself into the second coming, frighteningly incorporating Woody’s jittery, spastic movements into his act at Folk City (!) which fits nicely into the accounts of Guthrie the Myth traveling across the Atlantic and beyond. Some legends are born, some are made. And Guthrie’s legend was both. As the vehicle which brought us from Old Left to the New, his was also wholly necessary.