An illuminating, solidly documented portrait of this country's most influential white folk singer. Focusing on the people and events that shaped Guthrie's music and political consciousness, Yates (Zora Neale Hurston: A Storyteller's Life, 1991) follows her subject through the boom-and-bust oil towns of Oklahoma and Texas, the natural horrors of the Dust Bowl and the economic horrors endured by California migrant workers. Guthrie's personal life was marred by tragedy (in separate accidents he, his father, his sister, and a daughter were seriously -- fatally in the case of the last two -- burned) and characterized by a casual willingness to leave wives and children behind; his work -- recordings, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and, most of all, legions of plainspoken lyrics -- effectively captured both his outrage at social injustice and his unshakable confidence in the strength of the human spirit. Most of the quoted lines (which include draft versions of several songs) go beyond sound bite status to give readers a good sense of how Guthrie spoke, wrote, and thought. The author bases her account on an array of interviews, memoirs and secondary sources, all carefully cited, and closes with the complete lyrics to ""This Land Is Your Land."" Exemplary work, even better than Yurchenko's A Mighty Hard Road (McGraw Hill, 1970).