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Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  152 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Ed Cray creates a haunting portrait of the larger-than-life folk singer who influenced Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and popular music itself, and who captured the spirit of his times in his enduring songs: This Land is Your Land, Going down this road feeling bad, and many more.
Hardcover, 488 pages
Published 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company
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adrian anderson
Oct 15, 2014 adrian anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Going into Ramblin' Man as someone not very familiar with the music of Guthrie, but aware of his influence (especially on Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan, as well as newer "folk punk" artists like Pat the Bunny and Chris Clavin, who cite Guthrie as an influence), I still enjoyed it immensely. It's impressive how Guthrie was able to produce a prolific catalog of songs, writings, and art. Cray also tends to focus on (as a previous reviewer pointed out) separating the folk legend that Guthrie has beco ...more
Paul Moody
Apr 06, 2015 Paul Moody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no figure more influential in my understanding of the American experience and what it means to be an American than Woody Guthrie.

Woody was an imperfect, impolite, unreliable, sensitive, empathetic, poorly dressed, noble-hearted, often drunken, usually broke, ramblin', womanizing, short, scrawny, giant of a man. He never wavered in his dedication for the displaced and the oppressed, he was always in alliance with the hard working, common americans; those who faced some of the hardest tim
Evanston Public  Library
Had Shakespeare written a Great American Tragedy, it might have read a lot like the biography of Woody Guthrie. Stalked almost from birth by fire, madness, and disease, Guthrie lived through times of amazing hardship and change in our nation, and chronicled much of those times in song. Cray’s excellently researched biography trails Woody from his modest Oklahoma upbringing, through his years of productivity and (modest) success, and into his steady decline and final days, wracked with Huntington ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Tasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book free from Goodreads' first reads.

It took me awhile to get through this book. I don't usually read biographies, and when I do, I don't usually like them. I entered to win this book because I like Woody Guthrie's music, but knew very little about him. I wanted to know more.

I'm an even bigger fan now! I want to be exposed to more of his music. I also learned that he wrote a couple books that I plan to look up. I appreciate his life and beliefs so much more now. He may even rep
Apr 26, 2012 Mat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best biographies I have ever read although I have heard that the one by Joe Klein on Woody is also good.

Being a huge Bob Dylan fan, I always wanted to know more about Woody and why he was such an inspiration to America and Americans, even helping to spur a whole Folk Movement which enveloped the country in the late 50s and 60s.

Personally, I really don't like Woody's voice that much but in terms of the quality of his lyrics and the messages inherent in his songs, I think he is an amaz
Nov 29, 2011 Ramin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often read biographies, but this one is definitely worth reading. It is very informative and well written, telling many interesting stories about the life and times and music of Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was a folk singer, a poet, a writer, a union activist, and maybe could be called a people's musician. His music has been very influential to folk, country, blues, and rock music, influencing Pete Seeger, Rambling Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Garcia, Lennon an ...more
Elle Druskin
Dec 12, 2012 Elle Druskin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and it was interesting reading it at the same time Ken Burns' wonderful documentary on The Dust Bowl screened on television. I thought I knew a fair amount about Woody Guthrie but I learned so much I didn't know about him because this book has significant detail. The author doesn't gloss or try to paint a better portrait of the man than he was and like everyone, Guthrie had his faults, but it was fascinating reading for anyone interested in Woody Guthrie and his music ...more
Steve Gillway
Jan 01, 2013 Steve Gillway rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: musicians, biography
This book is, I think, a real warts and all biography. One person lays it down- he may have been a great musician, but not really a nice person. His rise from abject poverty paints a kind of social history of the USA. The insights into his primitive socialism, or the simple unfair predudice he railed against, show him as a product of his time. In the end he had to pay twice before the house of unamerican activities and a long lingering death from Huntingdoms. Read it and hear his music in a clea ...more
Gina Morrill Olson
I'm not sure I would like Woody Guthrie if I met him after reading this biography. Intense creativity and brilliance doesn't always make for a nice person. But I do appreciate his contribution to music and society. It was all with the best intentions. He was a lovable character at his very best. I don't think any detail was left out about Woody Guthrie's life.
Little bit of spooky irony, the very day that Pete Seeger died was the day that I read about Woody meeting Pete.
I started this book thinking I knew all about Woody Guthrie. By the time I was done I realized how little I really knew. This is a fascinating read and it's very well researched, but it took me longer to get through it than is typical for me, largely, I think because I knew so little about Guthrie and the landscapes he traversed for most of his life.
Megann Filios
Jan 19, 2010 Megann Filios rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband picked this book out for me, I really didn't know to much about Guthrie, but this book was amazing. He also gave me a CD by Jonatha Brooke called 'The Works' that is Guthrie lyrics to her music. Listening to Guthrie's own words set to Jonatha's beautiful music and reading this great biography was a great gift.
Joan Colby
A fairly exhaustive study of Woody Guthrie’s life. Cray had access to new materials which may have added information, but not enhanced readability. An earlier biography of Guthrie by Joe Klein (Woody Guthrie: A Life) was more readable and vivid while handling much of the same source material.
Jul 27, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Really more than you ever wanted to know. Hasn't kept me from putting 2 documentaries on my NF queue, however.
Well written, thorough and many perspectives, opinions presented. One thing I learned: hadn't realized he was a fellow traveler to such a degree of commitment.
Dec 09, 2010 Pjgould rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woody Guthrie had quite a life. He was plagued by medical problems and alcoholism, but left a huge mark on folk music. I enjoyed this bio of his troubled life, and his influence on America's music.
Jolene Adkins
May 07, 2011 Jolene Adkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What character. This book lead me to eventually read Grapes of Wrath which set off my recent Steinbeck kick. And to think I just opened Ramblin' Man to sneek a peak of Arlo. Yes, He's in there.
Apr 11, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes it's hard travellin in the valley of the now. But search for what you know is right. Woody went crazy. But kind people comforted him.
May 17, 2008 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than you ever want to know about the folk hero/hobo!
Rita Halfscatch
life is short and I only need to know so much about WG.
Mar 11, 2014 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bob-dylan
The man and the myth sanctified.
Joe Adams
Joe Adams rated it liked it
Apr 28, 2016
James marked it as to-read
Apr 27, 2016
Randall Harrison
Randall Harrison rated it really liked it
May 10, 2016
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Carol Feldman marked it as to-read
May 19, 2016
Michael rated it really liked it
Apr 15, 2016
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Mar 15, 2016
Jay Levon
Jay Levon rated it it was amazing
Mar 12, 2016
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Cray is a longtime freelance writer who has been published in many of the country's leading newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Cray is the author of 18 published books, including General of the Army, a biography of George C. Marshall; Chief Justice, a biography of Earl Warren; and most recently Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. ...more
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