Woody Guthrie - OKLAHOMA HILLS

First performance: 29/09/1996


Coverinfo

Bruce covered the song 3 times: 
 
Woody Guthrie tribute concert featuring numerous musicians and highlighted by Springsteen's first ever performance with folk icon Pete Seeger. The first six songs feature Springsteen solo or in the lead role. The last four songs feature Springsteen in a support/background role. Other performers from the night include Joe Ely, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Dave Pirner, Indigo Girls, Country Joe McDonald, Jimmy LaFave, Paul Metsa, Syd Straw, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tim Robbins (who introduces Bruce), Fred Hellerman, Peter Glazer, and Craig Werner.
 
TOM JOAD / BLOWIN' DOWN THIS ROAD (with Joe Ely) / OKLAHOMA HILLS (with Joe Ely, Arlo Guthrie, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott) / RIDING IN MY CAR / PLANE WRECK AT LOS GATOS (DEPORTEE) / ACROSS THE BORDER / HARD TRAVELIN' HOOTENANNY (with all performers) / I'VE GOT TO KNOW (with all performers) / HOBO'S LULLABY (with Pete Seeger) / THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (with all performers) 
 
 
 
Soundboard recordings of four of these performances—"Riding In My Car", "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)", "Hard Travelin' Hootenanny" and "This Land Is Your Land" (with Arlo Guthrie's story "'Til We Outnumber 'Em" superimposed)—were officially released in May 2000 on the various artists charity CD 'Til We Outnumber 'Em (Righteous Babe). 
 
 
 
2005-04-28 - NOKIA LIVE AT GRAND PRAIRIE, GRAND PRAIRIE, TX
Austin singer / songwriter Jimmy LaFave guests for Woody and Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" in its only tour performance. 
 
2006-01-14 - WINTER GARDEN ATRIUM, WORLD FINANCIAL CENTER, NEW YORK CITY
Bruce appears at "The Nebraska Project" on the opening night of the New York Guitar Festival and performs Oklahoma hills with about 20 other guitar players in honor of Woody Guthrie who inspired Nebraska. Previously several artists took turns at performing various songs from the album, including Mark Eitzel, Michelle Shocked, Jen Chapin, Laura Cantrell, The National, and Chocolate Genius. 
 
 
 

Songinfo

"Oklahoma Hills" is a song written by Woody Guthrie. The Oklahoma Legislature declared it to be the official state folk song. Jack Guthrie, Woody's cousin, changed the lyrics and music slightly and in 1945 recorded a Western swing version. It remains the best-known version of "Oklahoma Hills", and was the biggest hit of Jack Guthrie's fairly short life. Though Woody originated the song, the official Woody Guthrie website credits both him and Jack as its writers, perhaps because Jack's changes have become so well known.
 
 
 

Bruce on the artist

During the the keynote speech 
 
" I covered a lot of ground, but there was still something missing. So, somewhere in my late twenties I picked up Joe Klein’s "Woody Guthrie, A Life." And as I read that book, a world of possibilities that predated Dylan’s, that had inspired him, and lead to some of his greatest work, opened up for me. Woody’s gaze was – it was set on today’s hard times. But also, somewhere over the horizon, there was something. Woody’s world was a world where fatalism was tempered by a practical idealism. It was a world where speaking truth to power wasn’t futile, whatever its outcome. Why do we continue to talk about Woody so many years on, never had a hit, never went platinum, never played in an arena, never got his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone. But he’s a ghost in the machine – big, big ghost in the machine. And I believe it’s because Woody’s songs, his body of work, tried to answer Hank Williams’ question: why your bucket has a whole in it. And that’s a question that’s eaten at me for a long time. So, in my early 30s, his voice spoke to me very, very deeply. And we began to cover “This Land is Your Land” in concert. And I knew I was never gonna be Woody Guthrie. I liked Elvis, and I liked the Pink Cadillac too much. I like the simplicity, and the tossed–off temporary feeling of pop hits. I liked big, fucking noise. And in my own way, I like the luxuries and the comforts of being a star. I had already gone a long way down a pretty different road. So four years ago, I found myself in an unusual situation. It was a cold winter day, and I was standing alongside of Pete Seeger, and it was 25 degrees. Pete had come to Washington. Pete carries a banjo everywhere he goes – the subway, the bus – and comes out in his shirt. I said, “Man, Pete, put on a jacket, man, it’s freezing out here.” He’s ninety years old, a living embodiment of Woody’s legacy. And there were several hundred thousand of our fellow citizens in front of us. We had the Lincoln Memorial behind us and a newly–elected president to our right. And we were going to sing, “This Land is Your Land” in front of all these Americans. And Pete insisted, “We have to sing all the verses. We have to sing all the verses, man. You can’t leave any of them out.” I said, I don’t know, Pete, there’s only – we had, like, a crowd of six year old school kids behind us. He says, “No, we’re all gonna sing all the verses – all the verses. And, so we got to it."
 
A Vision Shared - A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly is a various artists benefit documentary and home video in support of Folkways Records and the Woody Guthrie Archives. Narrated by Robbie Robertson, it features interviews with and performances by leading folk, rock, and country recording artists including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and others. The documentary premiered on Showtime on 17 Sep 1988 and was released as a home video by Columbia Records later that year. It was originally issued on VHS and Laserdisc and in October 2000 it was reissued on DVD
 
This land is your land recorded in 2009. It was used in the 2009 documentary The People Speak, closing the film before the credits roll. The documentary was released on home video the following year. Released on 09 Feb 2010. Bruce Springsteen was inspired by the works of historian and activist Howard Zinn. In an interview published in the 15 Nov 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, he told Joe Levy: "Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States had an enormous impact on me. It set me down in a place that I recognized and felt I had a claim to. It made me feel that I was a player in this moment in history, as we all are, and that this moment in history was mine, somehow, to do with whatever I could. It gave me a sense of myself in the context of this huge American experience and empowered me to feel that in my small way, I had something to say, I could do something. It made me feel a part of history, and gave me life as a participant." The People Speak is a 2009 documentary narrated by historian Howard Zinn and is based on his books A People's History Of The United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices Of A People's History Of The United States. It premiered on History on 13 Dec 2009. The film weaves archival footage and interviews with musical performances and dramatic readings of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans throughout the country's history. Most of the movie was shot on location in front of a live audiences at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, MA, in January 2008 and at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in Malibu, CA, in 2008. Other performances from around the country filmed in 2008 and 2009 were also used. For the film, Bruce Springsteen recorded two new solo acoustic renditions (guitar and harmonica) of The ghost of Tom Joad and Woody Guthrie's This land is your land.
The performances were filmed live at his home studio in New Jersey probably around early 2009. Interestingly, promotional footage for The People Speak shows that Howard Zinn was present at Springsteen's home when the two songs were recorded. This land is your land  was used in the documentary, closing the film before the credits roll, while The ghost of Tom Joad was posted on Bruce Springsteen's official website in January 2010. Later in 2009 a new version of The ghost of Tom Joad was recorded (in the same arrangement) and released exclusively on The People Speak soundtrack album.

 
 
The influence of Guthrie on Bruce is been well-documented.  He covered his signature song "This Land Is Your Land" all throughout the 1980s, and was directly inspired to record The Ghost of Tom Joad by Guthrie's work, especially "Tom Joad Blues." "There was always some spiritual center amid Woody's songs," Springsteen said in 1996. "He always projected a sense of good times in the face of it all. He always got you thinking about the next guy, he took you out of yourself. I guess his idea was salvation isn't individual. Maybe we don't rise and fall on our own." (source)
 
The ghost of Tom Joad was first of all inspired by John Ford's 1940 film adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1939 classic novel The Grapes Of Wrath. The references at the end of The Ghost Of Tom Joad album's credits list some of the source materials, including "John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, written by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, a Twentieth Century-Fox film." Springsteen's song, however, is set in the 80's or 90's, with contemporary times being likened to Dust Bowl images. The song also takes inspiration from Woody Guthrie's 1940 song Tom Joad, which explores the novel's protagonist's life. In 1995, Springsteen got in touch with John Steinbeck's widow Elaine Steinbeck to ask permission to use the name of the character from The Grapes of Wrath.

In 2006 he recorded an acoustic version as a duet with Pete Seeger.
 
 
  

Lyrics

Many a month has come and gone
Since I wandered from my home
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
Many a page of life has turned,
Many a lesson I have learned;
Well, I feel like in those hills I still belong.
'Way down yonder in the Indian Nation
Ridin' my pony on the reservation,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
Now, 'way down yonder in the Indian Nation,
A cowboy's life is my occupation,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
But as I sit here today,
Many miles I am away
From a place I rode my pony through the draw,
While the oak and blackjack trees
Kiss the playful prairie breeze,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
Now as I turn life a page
To the land of the great Osage
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born,
While the black oil it rolls and flows
And the snow-white cotton grows
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.