Well, yeah, he did. But his legacy carries on well after Huntington’s disease claimed his body on Oct. 3, 1967, and not just in the folk genre he mastered. His legacy is one that was hell-bent on tearing down authoritarianism and replacing it with tolerance and understanding.
“Woody was a social conscience as much as he was a musician, songwriter or poet,” said Russ Florence, who’s helped to coordinate the “This Machine” public service project for the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice. “The music was the vehicle to tell a broader story and speak on behalf of people overlooked/left out.”
These days, the OCCJ has picked up where Guthrie left off by incorporating many of Oklahoma’s best musicians with photographers, web designers, video producers and media professionals to produce a series of public service announcements. The music provides the muscle in the organization’s never-ending fight against bias, bigotry and racism.
“It’s definitely a grassroots movement,” Florence said. “All the people involved in this effort see the need for this message to be delivered to Oklahomans.”
While stylistically different, each artist’s message and painted guitar is clearly rooted in Guthrie’s vow that “This Machine Kills Fascists.”
Last year, the campaign produced concerts, ads, a website and a social media campaign. Keep your eyes open for a couple of TV spots premiering this month to mark the campaign’s re-launch. For more information, visit occjrocks.com. —Matt Carney