Nora Guthrie

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Nora Lee Guthrie, the third child of folksinger Woody Guthrie and Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia, was born in 1950 in Brooklyn, NY. Like her older brother Arlo, Nora entered the music business in…
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Nora Lee Guthrie, the third child of folksinger Woody Guthrie and Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia, was born in 1950 in Brooklyn, NY. Like her older brother Arlo, Nora entered the music business in 1967, the same year as their father's death. But unlike Arlo, who found immediate success with his longhaired classic "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," Nora's output was limited to a single 7" recorded with her then-boyfriend, Eric Eisner. Guthrie was only two when her father left their family's home in Coney Island, his health deteriorating. Attending left-wing summer camps with other so-called red diaper babies, as well as the progressive Elisabeth Irwin High School in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, Guthrie was situated in the midst of the city's burgeoning folk-rock scene. Boyfriend Eisner played drums in a local band called the Strangers, who shared management with Village sensations the Lovin' Spoonful. Guthrie and Eisner were regulars at the Night Owl, where the Spoonful played every night.

Guthrie and Eisner, who played guitar and wrote songs, became infatuated with Brazilian songwriter João Gilberto and his wife, Astrud. Encouraging Guthrie to sing, Eisner wrote a peculiar narrative song with vague bossa nova overtones titled "Emily's Illness," sung from the perspective of a teenage girl dying of a mysterious ailment. In the fall of 1967, with Guthrie singing, the two recorded the song, along with a studio band arranged by Artie Schroeck, another Spoonful-affiliated associate. The single was backed with another original, the string-abetted "Home Before Dark." Released in November by Mercury Records, the single sold poorly and received moderate airplay in San Francisco. Guthrie and Eisner demurred from recording the contracted follow-up. The pair split in the early '70s when Eisner moved to Los Angeles to become a music executive. Guthrie spent nearly two decades as a dancer, before retiring to administer her father's estate. In 1998, she oversaw the conception and production of two volumes of Mermaid Avenue, in which British folksinger Billy Bragg and American rock band Wilco set unused Woody lyrics to new music. In 2008, Guthrie earned a Grammy for her role in the production of a live Woody Guthrie album, recorded in 1949, titled The Live Wire. The Japanese EM label reissued "Emily's Illness" on vinyl in 2009.