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Woody Guthrie gave life to protest songs he wrote, sang
As a teenager growing up outside Denver, Judy Collins and a few friends used to hike up Lookout Mountain to listen to musicians play folk music. It was there that she saw a man wearing overalls and an engineers hat named Martin Hoffman singing a song called Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos). It was the first Woody Guthrie song she ever heard, and for a kid whose home echoed with the works of George Gershwin and the American songbook, hearing the music of Guthrie from folkies up on the mountain was a revelation.
It was like going up and getting an injection of this culture that I knew zero about, Miss Collins said in a recent phone call.
She picked up the guitar and began writing songs. Hoffman moved to Arizona, taught school in the desert, and committed suicide. Miss Collins was so moved by his death that she wrote Song For Martin. Released in 1973 on True Stories and Other Dreams, she claims it as a classic Judy Collins song.
Recently in Brooklyn, Miss Collins and several colleagues who have celebrated and poached from the Guthrie songbook for decades performed in one of many celebrations commemorating what would have been Guthries 100th birthday this year. There, she was handed a published copy of Deportee sheet music that said Lyrics by Woody Guthrie, music by Martin Hoffman.
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