On October 16th, Charles Street residents fortunate enough to be out and about on that fall, weekday, mid-afternoon, could not help but notice the sizable crowd gathered in front of 74 Charles Street. I live there, on the fourth floor.
Returning at 3:15 pm, I learned that the gathering had to do with the newly-installed plaque that eloquently commemorates Woody Guthrie, prolific singer-songwriter whose musical legacy includes ‘This Land Is Your Land’, lived at 74 Charles Street from December 1942 until May 1943.
I already knew that Woody Guthrie had lived one floor above me. That is not the only seeming coincidence. An aunt, a health care provider at Brooklyn State hospital, knew him there. So now, a plaque was being dedicated to honor the life and work of a legend.
Among family luminaries present were daughter Nora Guthrie, and Ms. Guthrie’s own daughter and grand-daughter, Anna and Kaylee Canoni. Representing some of Woody’s friends were Jonathan Brooke, David Amram, and Oscar Brand. Ms. Brooke performed two songs from her album, The Works. David Amram, the composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist, and author, talked about his old friend. Oscar Brand, the now 93 year old Canadian-born folk singer, songwriter, and author, treated us to ‘Union Maid’, one of Woody’s songs.
Mistress of Ceremonies was Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, writer, activist, and television interviewer and producer known for her involvement in the fields of architecture and the arts. One of her most celebrated books is The Landmarks of New York.
Ms. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Center and creator of its Medallion Program, told me that if the plaque was not affixed with even stronger stuff, someone might try to steal all or part of the plaque.
A Song in His Heart
Woody Guthrie had not just one song in his heart. He had more than 3000! One he did not write himself but that he sang is ‘Red River Valley,’ which was a favorite back when I was a kid growing up in Helena, Montana.
Stop by the front of 74-76 Charles Street and read for yourself the eloquent summary of Guthrie’s contributions on the plaque.
Thanks again, Woody Guthrie.