American Roots FYS

Dr. Rachel Hall


Pete, Woody, Bob


Readings:  Romancing the Folk, Chapter 5

Viewing:  Folk America, Episode 2: This Land is Your Land (for Guthrie)



Summarize the bio of your selected performer, including family background, youthful influences, early, middle, and late career (and death, in the case of Guthrie).


Respond to each of the terms in relation to your selected performer:


Authenticity and inauthenticity











Outsider/insider status
















Stage persona vs. private persona



Philosophy of “what folk music is”





Contemporary relevance and legacy





Matching:  Bob, Pete, or both? (see RTF, Chapter 5)


1.     Drew on American roots music forms such as ballads, blues, and gospel for inspiration throughout his career.

2.     Wrote, “the electrified guitar may prove to be the most typical instrument of the twenty-first century.”

3.     Used electric instruments.

4.     According to Filene, he was never really comfortable with the blues.

5.     Said, “My songs are just me talking to myself. .... I have no responsibility to anybody except myself.”

6.     Showed songwriters “how to make new songs.” (Filene)

7.     Believed that a concert was an “opportunity to promote community.” (Filene)

8.     “He’s so goddamned real, it’s unbelievable.” (Harry Jackson)

9.     Once stole precious albums from a friend.

10.  Idolized Elvis Presley.

11.  Attended Harvard.

12.  Became a born-again Christian.

13.  Dressed in workingman’s clothes and sometimes was smelly and dirty.

14.  Adopted the politics he thought the “common person” should have.

15.  Changed his name.

16.  According to Filene, his “entire career can be seen as an effort to break down the passivity that often marks Americans’ encounters with music.”

17.  Appropriated African American music.

18.  Appropriated African music.

19.  According to Filene, his “most fully realized and influential product was, in the end, his life.”

20.  Fantasized about an alter ego called “Uncle Zeke.”

21.  Gil Turner wrote of him, “Reality and truth ... are his criteria for evaluating the world around him, the people in it ..., songs to sing and songs to write.”

22.  In his early years, he frequently lied to his friends and fans about his background.

23.  Believed that anyone could—and should—be a folk singer.

24.  According to Filene, he “implied that playing in a given style involved intense commitment and personal transformation.”