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What to do in Oklahoma on July 11, 2018: Hear Joel Rafael with John Trudell's Bad Dog open the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival with a benefit show in Okemah

Joel Rafael. Photo provided
Joel Rafael. Photo provided

Today's featured event: 

OKEMAH - Singer-songwriter Joel Rafael will team with John Trudell's Bad Dog for a special benefit performance at 8 tonight at Okemah's historic Crystal Theatre, 401 W Broadway, to open the 21st Annual Wood Guthrie Folk Festival.

Rafael, a longtime student of Woody Guthrie, has composed the music to five Guthrie lyrics and released two albums of new and familiar Guthrie songs. His return to Okemah marks his 21st performance at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, affectionately known as WoodyFest. 

Besides bringing his own songs to the stage, Rafael has teamed up with Bad Dog, the seminal band and alter ego of the late John Trudell. A spoken word activist, Trudell helped lead the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 and was chairman of American Indian Movement leader from 1973-79. 

After hearing Trudell speak at Peace Sunday in 1982, Rafael became an advocate for Indigenous Rights, sharing Trudell’s words and following his trail for more than 20 years until the two began regularly performing and eventually writing together. After Trudell died of cancer in December 2015, his band, Bad Dog, asked Rafael to carry on Trudell's work by performing with them, according to a news release. 

John Trudell's Bad Dog band includes Ricky Eckstein (bass), Mark Shark (guitars), Billy Watts (guitars), Debra Dobkin (drums), Quiltman and T (traditional vocals).

Tonight's show will be a fundraiser for the nonprofit Woody Guthrie Coalition, which organizes the annual festival. 

In addition, Rafael will be playing a solo set on Friday night just before folk-pop hit-maker Jason Mraz, with whom he co-wrote “Standing,” which the duo debuted at Standing Rock in November 2016.

As previously reported, the Woody Guthrie Coalition will welcome Guthrie family members, veteran songwriters and festival favorites for the 21st annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival today through Sunday at various venues in Guthrie's hometown of Okemah. 

he Guthrie family will be well-represented at the musical celebration of the folk singer’s 106th birthday. Woody Guthrie’s grandchildren Annie Guthrie and Cole Quest, who is appearing with his band the City Pickers. Also appearing is Johnny Irion, husband of Sarah Lee Guthrie, according to a news release.

Returning festival favorites include Americana singer-songwriter and astute storyteller Ellis Paul; self-proclaimed "Queen of Oklahoma" and award-winning singer-songwriter Carter Sampson; Okemah native and Grammy-nominated Americana artist John Fullbright; Okie-grown country folk-rockers The Turnpike Troubadours; and red dirt standard-bearers and psychedelic cowboys the Red Dirt Rangers.

Hit songwriter, soulful folk-pop musician and activist Jason Mraz will make his WoodyFest debut. Other veteran songwriters and first-time festival performers include "Ozark Mountain Soul Roots n Roll" group Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings, folk singer and storyteller Willie Watson (a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show), and Americana cult legend Willis Alan Ramsay.

WoodyFest continues to pay tribute to Woody Guthrie through songs, communion, scholarship, tradition, storytelling and songwriting. Along with performance by the more than 100 musical artists, the festival will feature children's concerts, a youth songwriting contest, poetry readings, songwriting and music workshops, a one-woman theater piece and more. 

My great colleague Becky Carman recently interviewed Oklahoma poet and editor Dorothy Alexander, a founding member of the Woody Poets and a coordinator and anthology editor for the group, about the festival's poetry programming. To read that story, click here

For more information on WoodyFest, go to www.woodyfest.com

For more events, go to newsok.com/calendar.


Related Photos
Joel Rafael. Photo provided

Joel Rafael. Photo provided

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Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old... Read more ›