There are biographies that summarize a person’s life in a rather abstract and detached manner and then there are biographies that literally introduce you to them and make you feel like they were your best friend. Ed Cray’s superior biography of Woody Guthrie definitely falls into the latter category. For me, the Depression Era is one of my favorite periods to read about – the fact-filled non-fiction book Public Enemies remains one of my all time favorites, despite the inaccurate liberties taken in the motion picture. John Steinbeck’s historical novel, The Grapes of Wrath is easily my favorite book in its category. Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie joins these two classics as a definitive account of America during the Depression.
I tend to find biographies, even acclaimed ones like John Adams, to be rather stale and uninspiring. Ramblin’ Man on the other hand is a literary triumph that grabs the reader from the get go and never let’s go - I was completely spellbound from page one. Mr. Cray did a first-rate job detailing the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie’s life. By the way, if anyone ever plays Woody Guthrie in a movie, it has to be Sean Penn. Their resemblance is almost uncanny.
Personally, I can scarcely imagine the amount of research that went into compiling information and then writing Ramblin’ Man. Staggering is the only word that comes close to approaching an accurate description. The end notes fill 50 pages. That alone is almost mind-boggling.
It would be nearly impossible to encapsulate the richness and depth of this book in a single blog post. All I can say is please read this remarkable book! You will not be disappointed in the least. Congratulations to Mr. Cray for writing what I personally believe is a biographical masterpiece.