In 1956, Woody Guthrie checked himself out of Brooklyn State Hospital and eventually moved to Greystone Hospital in New Jersey; he would return to the hospital in Brooklyn in 1961. That same year, a young college student from Minnesota named Robert Zimmerman showed up at Woody’s house in Queens, hoping to fulfill a quest. He was eventually permitted to visit Woody in the hospital. Their interaction was brief but electrifying for the young Bob Dylan. He sent a postcard to his friends in Minnesota: “I know Woody. I know Woody…I know him and met him and saw him and sang to him. I know Woody—Goddamn.” Dylan would later record a tribute to Woody Guthrie on his debut album called “Song to Woody.” On April 12, 1963, during a performance at New York City’s Town Hall, Dylan recited a poem he called “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” It ended with this image:
You can either go to the church of your choice or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital. You find God in the church of your choice, you find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital. And though it’s only my opinion, I’m either right or wrong, you find them both in Grand Canyon at sundown.
Woody Guthrie died at Creedmore State Hospital in Queens on October 3, 1967.