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“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie

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“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie

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“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie


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    “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie is a folk song.

    Woody Guthrie came up with the original version of the song This Is Your Land while hitchiking from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, New York. The song started as a parody of “God Bless America”, which was playing in juke boxes all across the U.S. The song originally included a line in the chorus, “God blessed America for me,” which was changed to “This land was made for you and me.”
    Woody Guthrie’s song This Is Your Land claims that the working class should have the same rights as the rich.

    Woody Guthrie recorded the song This Is Your Land in 1944. This Is Your Land was released by Folkways Recording Company in 1949.

    Pete Seeger often performed his friend’s song This Is Your Land until the 1968 at Resurrection City, a Poor People’s Campaign shantytown set up in Washington, D.C.
    Just before Pete Seeger and Jimmy Collier were about to perform the song, Lakotah Chief Henry Crow Dog poked Jimmy Collier in the chest and said, “Hey, you’re both wrong. It belongs to me.”
    Jimmy Collier asked, “Should we not sing it?”
    Chief Henry Crow Dog said, “Not, it’s okay. Go ahead and sing it. As long as we are all down here together to get something done.”
    Afterwards, Pete Seeger performed the song with a verse composed by Carolyn “Cappy” Israel.

    Bruce Springsteen recorded This Is Your Land in response to Ronald Reagan quoting lyrics in his campaign speeches, which Bruce Springsteen considered hypocrisy.

    Song Title: This Land Is Your Land
    Artist: Woody Guthrie
    Genre: folk
    Composer: Copyright © 1940 Woody Guthrie
    © Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
    Lead Vocals: Woody Guthrie
    Acoustic Guitar: Woody Guthrie
    Released: 1944

    This song is the number one (1) song of 1947 according to Digital Dream Door’s Adam.

    Number of listens: 38238
    Current rank: 11 (updated weekly)
    Highest rank: 9 (play the video all the way through to register a vote for this song)

    Information from the U.S. Library of Congress:

    In February 1940, Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” in reaction to Irving Berlin’s song “God Bless America.” Guthrie heard Berlin’s song repeatedly while he traveled in a hobo life-style cross-country and became increasingly annoyed that it glossed over the lop-sided distribution of land and wealth that he was observing and had experienced as a child. Although Guthrie was no statistician his observations accurately reflected the fact that, even in the depths of the Depression, nearly 20 percent of the nation’s wealth rested with one percent of its population.

    Woody Guthrie playing guitar Woody Guthrie playing guitar. Al Aumuller, photographer, March 8, 1943. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Guthrie originally entitled his song “God Blessed America for Me,” a line repeated at the end of each verse. By the time he first recorded the song with Cisco Houston, in April 1944, he changed the lines to “This land was made for you and me,” which invokes the title by which his song has been known ever since -- “This Land Is Your Land.” Amazingly Guthrie and Houston recorded over 160 songs during that prolific set of recording sessions. Since then “This Land Is Your Land” has been re-recorded by numerous vocal artists including: Bing Crosby, Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, Fred Waring, Pete Seeger, and the Limeliters.

    Sometime before April 1944 Guthrie removed the final verse he originally wrote for “This Land Is Your Land.” In its place he eventually wrote an additional verse that appeared in his 1946 mimeographed pamphlet entitled Ten Songs for Two Bits.

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my Freedom Highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


    Summary quotation from Wikipedia:

    “This Land Is Your Land” is one of the United States’ most famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in 1940 based on an existing melody, in critical response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he wrote a response originally called “God Blessed America”. Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses in line with his sympathetic views of communism, than appear in recordings or publications.

    Guthrie wrote the song in 1940 and recorded it in 1944. The song was not published until 1945, when it was included in a mimeographed booklet of ten songs with typed lyrics and hand drawings. The booklet was sold for twenty-five cents, and copyrighted in 1951.

    The first known professionally printed publication was in 1956 by Ludlow Music (now a unit of The Richmond Organization), which administered the publishing rights to Guthrie’s song. Ludlow later issued versions with piano and guitar accompaniments.

    In 2002, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.


    Guthrie’s melody was very similar to the melody of “Oh, My Loving Brother”, a Baptist gospel hymn that had been recorded by the Carter Family as “When the World’s On Fire” and had inspired their “Little Darlin’, Pal of Mine.” He used the same melody for the chorus and the verses.

    Guthrie’s song, however, had a different melodic structure from the hymn or the similar Carter family melodies, and he used only the first half of those melodies in his song. The melodic structure of the presumed model(s) can be described as “ABCD”—a new melodic phrase for each of its four lines. Guthrie’s structure, however, is “ACAB.” In other words, Guthrie repeats the beginning of the melody (the “A” section) for his 3rd line, and for his 4th line (“This land was made for you and me” in the chorus), he uses a melody that is not found in the hymn or in either Carter family melody.

Original 1940 lyrics

    Following are the original lyrics as composed on February 23, 1940, in Guthrie’s room at the Hanover House hotel at 43rd St. and 6th Ave. (101 West 43rd St.) in New York, showing his strikeouts. The line “This land was made for you and me” does not literally appear in the manuscript at the end of each verse, but is implied by Guthrie’s writing of those words at the top of the page and by his subsequent singing of the line with those words.

    The original title was “God Blessed America”, but it was struck out and replaced by “This Land Was Made For You & Me”. It appears therefore that the original 1940 title was “This Land”.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
    According to Joe Klein, after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March, 1944, recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)

Original 1944 lyrics
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
Note that this version drops the two political verses from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger.

Confirmation of two other verses

    A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History - Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.
Woody Guthrie has a variant:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
It also has a verse:
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
    A 1945 pamphlet which omitted the last two verses has caused some question as to whether the original song did in fact contain the full text. The original manuscript confirms both of these verses.

    As with other folk songs, the lyrics were sung with different words at various times although the motives for this particular change of lyrics may involve the possible political interpretations of the verses. Recordings of Guthrie have him singing the verses with different words.

Modern usage

    The song was brought back to life in the 1960s, when several artists of the new folk movement, including Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, Trini Lopez, Jay and the Americans, and The New Christy Minstrels all recorded versions, inspired by its political message. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the song in 1962 for their Moving album. The Seekers recorded the song for their 1965 album, A World of Our Own. At the founding convention of the Canadian social democratic New Democratic Party, a version of the song was sung by the attending delegates. Bruce Springsteen released a live version of it on Live/1975-85, in which he called it “about one of the most beautiful songs ever written about america.” Numerous records have been released since. Dave Matthews has periodically sung the song’s first verse as an outro while performing “Don’t Drink The Water”. In 2007, Counting Crows released an acoustic version as a bonus track on August and Everything After. The funk/soul group Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings included their rendition on the 2005 record Naturally. Bruce Springsteen once again brought back the song in 2008 as set closer when performing acoustic concerts in support of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, this time adding a “Yes We Can” chant before and after the song.

    The song was sung by Springsteen and Pete Seeger, accompanied by Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2009. The song was restored to the original lyrics (including the ‘There was a big high wall there’ and ‘Nobody living can ever stop me’ verses) for this performance (as per Pete Seeger’s request) with the exception of a change in the end of the ‘Relief Office’ verse to “As they stood hungry, I stood there whistling, This land was made for you and me.” The original lyrics are “As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, Is this land made for you and me?”

    The song is used during the introduction to the 2009 film Up in the Air, in a version sung by Sharon Jones and at the end credits of the 2009 documentary Food Inc. performed by Bruce Springsteen.

    In 2010, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, the surviving members of Peter, Paul and Mary, requested that the National Organization for Marriage stop using their recording of “This Land is Your Land” at their rallies, stating in a letter that the organization’s philosophy was “directly contrary to the advocacy position” held by the group.

    Arlo Guthrie tells a story in concerts on occasion, of his mother returning from a dance tour of China, and reporting around the Guthrie family dinner table that at one point in the tour she was serenaded by Chinese children singing the song. Arlo says Woody was incredulous: “The Chinese? Singing “This land is your land, this land in my land? From California to the New York island?“

    Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has a version called “This Land Is Our Land Redux,” a near-violent demand to take back the country from what it’s become. The song was released on their album “cypher” in 2008.

Copyright controversy

    In 2004, the website JibJab featured a parody of the song, featuring John Kerry and George W. Bush singing altered lyrics, resulting in the Richmond Organization threatening legal action. At this point, it was noticed that the copyright to the original 1945 publication had expired in 1973 and was not renewed as then required by copyright law. The Richmond Organization, a music publisher that owns the copyright to Guthrie’s tune through its Ludlow Music unit, settled with Jibjab shortly thereafter. Richmond still, however, claims copyright on other versions of the song, such as those appearing in the 1956 and later publications. Legally, such claims only apply to original elements of the song that were not in the public domain version.

—from Wikipedia (the Wikipedia:Text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License applies to Wikipedia’s block of text and possible accompanying picture, along with any alterations, transformations, and/or building upon Wikipedia’s original text that applied to this block of text)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and U.S. Government Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that web sites provide transcripts of audio for the deaf.
We will be adding lyrics to all songs as fast as we can. Please be patient.

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    Jasmine: This Land Is Your Land is Cooper’s favorite song.

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