Born: December 8, 1936 Primary Instrument: Guitar, acoustic
David Carradine by strumming his guitar with words of inspiration, Woody Guthrie instilled hope in the hearts of downtrodden Americans everywhere during the 1930s Depression. Now, the extraordinary life of this legendary balladeer and poet is captured in this elegantly crafted, hugely beautiful and interesting film, which reveals loving integrity in every frame (Los Angeles Times)! Winner of two Oscars and starring David Carradine, Bound for Glory features magnificent cinematography (New York) and an amazing score adaptation.
It's 1936, and the Great Depression is forcing droves of people from the dust bowls of Texas to the alluring green fields of California...and unemployed sign-painter Woody Guthrie is among them. Determined to find a better life out west, Guthrie hitchhikes, hops freight trains and sings his way across America, uplifting the spirits of the poor with his homespun wisdom and fiercely fighting for a better life for all.
Featuring classic Guthrie tunes including This Land Is Your Land, this moving, inspiring (The Hollywood Reporter) portrait of an American icon is one of [the] year's most admirable and triumphant surprises (Los Angeles Times)! *1976: Cinematography, Music (Adaptation Score).
The film shot in country side of Isleton, just out of Stockton California. And it is in the style of filming using live music, that gives Carradine's performance it 's reality. Using vintage Gibson guitars and later Martins, Carradines captures versions of Guthrie's songs full of warmth and a real sense of direction in this country, alla 1936 Dust Bowl.
There is a wonderfull sceen of a hodown, with Haskell Wexler's camera seemingly floating through the fireside groups gathered around, one song blends into another lost in a swirl.
Carradine as Musician
When I enter the room, the movie legend that is David Carradine, dressed in black, smiles from a cozy, high-backed chair (from which he does not get up). He’s dressed in all black and every bit as alluring and iconic to me that he must have been to Quentin Tarantino when writing his post-modern, retrofitted, souped-up, loving B-movie homage Kill Bill, Volume II. There’s barely time to say hello before Carradine lifts an oversized flute to his lips and begins to play. When he finishes, I’m all but mesmerized and have willingly tiptoed to the edge of journalistic objectivity, taken by Carradine’s spell while scenes from his 70s and 80s B-movie catalogue (i.e., my childhood) fast-forward in my mind. He speaks. I listen.
David Carradine: …Bought this thing in London, and the reason I was able to find it was because an orchestra from East Germany playing in London, the flute player defected, and this is an alto flute, the flute player rarely needs it most symphonies and s**t like that don’t have one. So he sold it. He kept his concert flute so he could work, but sold this flute so he could live. And I got to buy it. A flute made in East Germany. There was no other way you could get this flute except from a defector. And I later found out that this was called a Sonora, and they said if you want to play a Mozart symphony, then you want a Powell, made in America. But if you want to write a love song, you want a Sonora. That’s what I do.
I started studying the piano when I was seven, maybe six, and I’ve been with it pretty much ever since. I’m still learning it, though. Most concert pianists or the guys you see in the piano bars go to a certain point and that’s as far as they go. But I have been studying music, and I use the piano as a tool. I play guitar, I play the flute, I play saxophone and clarinet, drums, I play the sitar and the Delruba. Delruba is a Hindu instrument that you play with a pole, like a cello. So it has all those synthetic strings that go (indicates sound). And the literal translation of Delruba is heart enchanter, and it does that. You just go Ahhh, when you hear it.
But music is actually only my second love, because I started that when I was seven. But I started sculpting when I was four. And I originally thought, I’m going to be a sculptor. And I figured out that if I was sculptor, in the first place I’d never make any f***ing money, and I’d spend my entire life in a big room with a cold, north light and a big piece of rock, and maybe a pretty model.
But I got the idea of writing operas. And I figured, this is an open field. Nobody is writing American operas. At that time, nobody ever had except Gian Carlo Menotti or George Gershwin. That’s only two operas, and one of them, Menotti, as far as I was concerned, wasn’t even music. And so I decided if I did that it was an open field, I’d definitely make money and I’d be successful. I’d be surrounded by tenors and sopranos and dancers and musicians, and there’s be tuxedoes and champagne and it would be a great f***ing life. I’d get to meet Leonard Bernstein and everything, right?
But then I went to college to study music theory and composition and definitely got that down, but in the process, at San Francisco State College, the music department and the drama department were in the same building. And I would drift down the hall, when I got tired of playing the piano in those little rooms that they had, in between classes, and watch the guys work out in the acting section the doors were always open, there was no air conditioning to speak of in those daysand some guy said, ‘Hey, you want to be in a play?’ And I said, ‘What would I have to do?’ And he said, ‘Well, read this one-act play that I’ve written.’ I read it and I said, ‘Okay, yeah. I’ll do it.’
And I did it, and after I did it I had a lot of make-up on because I was playing an old man. And you had to take it off with this Albolene crème, and I went back and I got in my girlfriend’s car my girlfriend had a car, which was really important in those days and I would do the driving. She had the car and I sat in the driver’s seat, and all of a sudden she jumped me and started kissing me. And I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this grease all over me.’ She said, ‘I love it. I love it.’ And I went, ‘Uh-huh. I think I’ve found my vocation.’ I did marry the girl, by the way. I’m that kind of guy.
Musicians talk about mathematics and electronicsstuff like that. Actors talk about emotions. People. Tell stories. They’re literate. Musicians are not. And I could relate to it better. It was pretty natural. I was backing, you could say, into acting. I grew up, you know, with my father’s name…
I’ve never stopped pursuing music. Actually music is more frustrating than acting. It’s a harder road and it destroys people. If you think the guys that run the movie industry are difficult to deal with, the guys that run the music industry are really difficult. But they’ve kind of gone side by side. I’ve not become famous as a musician. I’ve done movie scores, mostly for my own movies, but I’ve also sold as songs and source material to fifteen or twenty different movies; ones you’ve never heard of, where when a guy walks into the bar there’s a jukebox playing that’s actually a recording that I did.
And I’ve always had a band. I’ve been touring pretty much anonymously that way. I’ve been touring for- since before Kung Fu, was my first band. I still do. I’ve had a lot of bands. I don’t know. I have something about me that doesn’t allow me to call it the David Carradine Band. It’s always got a funny name.
First band was called Water. It was three people: me, my brother, Bobby, playing acoustic guitar, and Barbara Hershey playing the flute. And we didn’t have any lyrics. And we sat on pillows on the floor. And my present band is called Soul Dog. And the band just before this was called The Cosmic Rescue Team. And the bands have always had very different shapes. Right now I’ve just got a four-piece band. But I’ve had up to nine people. And layered music. Because I am basically symphonic. But basic in my music are blues, country, rock-n-roll and pop and a little bit of classical. My daughter calls my music ‘white blues,’ which gave me the idea of calling it black country.
Bio photography by Wynn Hammer