Magic Penny Award

2002: Woody Guthrie

The 2002 CMN Magic Penny Award honored the great children's songs of Oklahoma-born singer, songwriter and activist Woody Guthrie. Representing the Guthrie family at CMN's National Gathering Oct 19-20 in Freedom NH was Woody's daughter, Nora Guthrie, Executive Director of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives.

Woody Guthrie once said, "By far my best audience for folksongs and ballads have been the kids. The story you're telling them in words goes through their minds like a newsreel, only plainer." He wrote dozens of children's songs, eighteen of which first appeared on the 1951 Folkways recording "Songs to Grow On." Chock full of classics such as "Car Car," "Put Your Finger In the Air" and "Don't You Push Me," the album is recognized as one of the most influential collections in the history of children's music in the US. In 1990 during a routine cleaning, a librarian at Sarah Lawrence College rediscovered twenty more of Woody's classic songs, tunes that were presumed forever lost by his family.

Working out of a small office on West 57th Street in New York, Nora Guthrie keeps Woody's memory alive through books, recordings, exhibits, films and a superb website found at In 1998, she invited British recording artist Billy Bragg to comb through the lyrics to nearly 2,500 of Woody's unpublished songs, and to come up with tunes to those that moved him most. The result, in collaboration with the alt-country band Wilco, were two Grammy-nominated albums, "Mermaid Avenue" and "Mermaid Avenue Vol II." Nora narrated the feature-length film, "Man in the Sand," documenting Bragg's quest to find "the spirit of Woody Guthrie" through the Mermaid Avenue projects.

As Nora put it, "I'm not the musician in my family, but I can tell you about Woody the Dad." Not to worry. The weekend will give us plenty of opportunities to sing Woody's songs.

Photo: Nora Guthrie recieves awardPhoto: 2002 Magic Penny AwardPhoto: 2002 Magic Penny AwardPhotos by Janice BucknerPhoto: 2002 Magic Penny AwardPhoto by Allen Zak

On behalf of her father, Woody, Nora Guthrie accepts the 2002 Magic Penny Award presented by Sally Rogers.

Award Designer: Eliza Zeitlin