Jonathan Purkis
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In search of Woody Guthrie
Singing the politics of hitchhiking
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This chapter examines the politics of the travelling song – in particular, the struggles of different marginalised groups or sections of society, moving from Woody Guthrie and ‘Memphis Minnie’ during the years of the Great Depression, to how ‘the road’ became central to the politics and culture of the civil rights campaigns during the 1960s. Many of the same themes are reprised in the 1980s, with a short case study of the moral panic about New Age travellers (whom the author stayed with on one of his hitchhiking journeys) and the closing down of some ‘public spaces’ to control alternative lifestyles. Today, activists and musicians sculpt their own songs of the open road via more niche web-based communities that overlap with a globally connected resurgent hitchhiking culture, some of which is a result of enforced migration.

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Driving with strangers

What hitchhiking tells us about humanity


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