Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions 1943

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions 1943

14/01/21 / Keyword: resolutions

2020 has been a tough year. Coach John looks at some “Rulin’s” made in 1943 at a time of great turmoil and wonders if our 2021 resolutions will be more profound.

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Useful vocabulary

resolution: a promise made to yourself, usually at New Year

hobo: a travelling, homeless person 

length and breadth: everywhere, North, East, South and West

tongue in cheek: ironic, flippant

scant: not a lot, minimal

rancho: a hut or group of huts for housing ranch workers

lonesome: lonely

dough: mixture of flour and liquid, ingredients for bread and colloquial term for money

make up your mind: decide

turmoils: disturbance, confusion, a time of uncertainty

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2020 has been a tough year. Coach John looks at some “Rulin’s” made in 1943 at a time of great turmoil and wonders if our 2021 resolutions will be more profound.

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) was the great American folk singer, trade unionist and socialist, who amongst others, heavily influenced Bob Dylan. In the middle of World War Two on 1st January, 1943, Woody wrote down 33 “Rulin’s”, as he called them, or resolutions, as we say today, for 1944 in his notebook.

(Editor’s note: In standard English “Rulin’s” would be “rulings”.)

Woody lived the life of a hobo, travelling the length and breadth of the USA with his guitar, singing about the struggles of the poor, fighting injustice and supporting working class people.  

He is best known for his song This Land is Your Land which many people consider to be the USA’s alternative national anthem.

Woody’s resolutions reveal a lot about the life he lived and his hopes, dreams, responsibilities and worries. However, some of them are obviously tongue in cheek!

1. Work more and better  2. Work by a schedule  3. Wash teeth if any.   4. Shave  5. Take bath  6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk   7. Drink very scant if any  8. Write a song a day  9. Wear clean clothes — look good  10. Shine shoes  11. Change socks  12. Change bed clothes often  13. Read lots good books  14. Listen to radio a lot. 15. Learn people better  16. Keep rancho clean  17. Don’t get lonesome  18. Stay glad   19. Keep hoping machine running  20. Dream good  21. Bank all extra money  22. Save dough  23. Have company but don’t waste time  24. Send Mary and kids money  25. Play and sing good  26. Dance better  27. Help win war — beat fascism  28. Love mama  29. Love papa  30. Love Pete*  31. Love everybody  32. Make up your mind  33. Wake up and fight

*Pete Seeger, the US folksinger and social activist who died in 2014.

Although Woody’s resolutions were written 78 years ago, most of them speak to us today. He wanted to be a better person and to get rid of his bad habits. The resolutions also show the turmoils creative people go through. Woody felt he had to know people better, read more and listen to the radio so he could write at least a song a day.

Woody wrote down his “Rulin’s” at the time of world war and his resolutions reflect his personal and political concerns for both his loved ones and the whole of humanity.

Maybe the events of 2020 have changed the way you look at the world and your resolutions for 2021 are different to the usual ones…

Written by ECP coach  John Hird

Let’s chat about Woody’s resolutions!

  1. What did you learn about Woody’s lifestyle from his resolutions?
  2. Which bad habits did Woody want to get rid of?
  3. What do you imagine Mary and the kids thought about Woody’s life?
  4. Which of Woody’s resolutions do you think are ‘tongue in cheek’?
  5. Are there any of Woody’s resolutions which you will add to YOUR list for 2021?

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