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, 21 (2), 209-23

Tracing Woody Guthrie and Huntington's Disease

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Tracing Woody Guthrie and Huntington's Disease

J Arévalo et al. Semin Neurol.

Abstract

Tracing the outlines of Woody Guthrie's life can be maddening. His outpouring of songs, words, and images attests to the rare creative spirit which possessed him like a devil, or angel, more often both. He was a figure which many of us hold dear as an emblematic American symbol of outspoken and independence-minded social consciousness. Drawn from Guthrie's collection of published and unpublished material in the Woody Guthrie Archives, including song lyrics, poems, prose, artwork--in short, every imaginable form of manuscript--the shadows that form and delineate Guthrie's life keep moving, much like dancing flames reflecting off a wall, illuminating some details while obscuring others. Guthrie, of course, had no choice about Huntington's disease (HD) or how it would impact his life. Characteristically, he moved with it, sang with it, and even danced with it. When HD finally silenced Guthrie in 1967, it nevertheless spurred his second wife, Marjorie Mazia, to action-action which continues today with the commitment and work of the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA). Was it tragic? Or just the natural course of the disease? The interplay between artistry, inspiration, and devastation is what we explore here.

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