26 Songs in 30 Days

26 Songs in 30 Days cover

Book cover for 26 Songs in 30 Days

26 Songs in 30 Days:  Woody Guthrie's Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest by Greg Vandy and Daniel Person provides a history of folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie's month-long position with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) creating songs about the Columbia River, Grand Coulee Dam and other topics related to the electrification of the Pacific Northwest.

Guthrie was hired by the BPA in 1941 to write songs for a planned documentary on the Grand Coulee Dam.  The film was to provide publicity for the dams (Grand Coulee and Bonneville) and plans to bring cheap electric power and improved flood control to the Columbia River basin and irrigation to surrounding farm areas.  In that one month, Guthrie toured Washington and Oregon with a BPA driver and composed twenty-six songs, including well known folk masterpieces such as "Roll on, Columbia," "Pastures of Plenty," and "Hard Travelin'."

As a child, I had learned some of these songs as an elementary school student in Washington State in the 1960s, but had the impression they were part of the WPA projects that brought artists and craftsmen to the area.   I never imagined that there were so many songs, nor that they had been commissioned by the Bonneville Power Administration for a very different federally funded project.

This book is part Guthrie biography and part history of the Great Depression, New Deal Politics, and the building of hydroelectric power along the Columbia River.  The book is heavily illustrated with copies of Guthrie's typewritten, and in some cases, handwritten lyrics of the Columbia River songs, post cards, and photos of the players involved, the scenic area and dam-building.   Also included are an annotated discography of the Columbia River songs, a bibliography and index.

26 Songs in 30 Days can be borrowed from the Music Library.