2021 Song Draft- Round 1 Pick 12: Hanspostcard selects- ‘This Land Is Your Land’- Woody Guthrie.
Like many the first time I can remember hearing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ was in elementary school. We had a music teacher at the school who would make an appearance in our room once a week every Friday morning. One of those mornings he came in with an old portable record player and played ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and taught us to sing it. It was one of those songs that seemed instantly recognizable. The song has been playing in my head all week- and I’ve found myself walking around singing it to myself. I have long thought that the song should be the National Anthem.
Woody Guthrie wrote ‘This Land Is Your Land’ as a response to the Irving Berlin song ‘Good Bless America’ which was a big hit in the late 1930’s. He based the melody of the Carter Family’s ‘When The World’s On Fire’ and wrote a song called ‘God Blessed America’- which he would change to ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ The song was written in 1940- but after writing the song- Woody completely forgot about it and didn’t do anything with it until 1944. He revised the song in 1944- dropping the two verses that were critical of America- one about private property and the other about hunger. The song was recorded in 1944 and published in 1945. It was never a ‘hit’- but a decision in the early 1950’s-when American folklorist Alan Lomax approached music publisher Howie Richmond with a the plan to save the nation’s musical heritage- put the song out there in school music textbooks- and forever into the country’s conscience. Guthrie’s publishers charged just $1 for the licensing and the song then went viral. Of course the two ‘lost verses were not in that book probably due to the anti-communism feeling at the time in America. I myself like the song best with the missing verses included.
Over the decades the song has been heavily covered- one of my favorite versions is Bruce Springsteen’s live version on his mid 80’s box set Live 1975-85. Bruce along with Pete Seeger performed it at President Obama’s inaugural. Lady Gaga sang a snippet of it before a recent Super Bowl.
For a great great read on Woody Guthrie- I’d suggest one of the finest music biographies I’ve ever read- Woody Guthrie: A Life- by Joe Klein.
Below is a version of the song- Woody with his son Arlo’s voice added in- singing the verses that Woody taught Arlo because he was afraid they would be forgotten if he didn’t.
I never knew about the two dropped verses. I agree the song is better with them. The story behind the song has a great parallel to the words and meaning–that it became popular not from a singer and a record label, but via school children everywhere from its inclusion in school books. Superb song draft pick, imo.
You picked an iconic tune, Hans. I think it would make a great National Anthem also. Much better than the war and superiority one we have.
much better sing along song also!
Great selection! I knew the song as a kid but also found out more about it and it’s background after getting into Springsteen and reading some interviews with him about it. It was great to see him and Pete Seeger play it at the Obama inauguration- if I remember correctly they included the extra verses?
yes they did include the extra verses.
Much easier to sing than the Anthem for sure. I remember it in school also and was reacquainted with it because of Springsteen. It’s one of the greatest songs ever written.
I can’t disagree- and it’s still playing in my head- going on a week now…
It’s one of those great earworms…not the bad kind.
I like those missing verses – I’ve never seen them before.
I didn’t have a clue they were there until I read the Guthrie bio by Joe Klein- A dying Woody was afraid that they’d be forgotten and took a young Arlo out in the backyard and taught them to him.
Im all over this Hans. Im a Steinbeck, Guthrie Dirty 30’s kind a guy. I’ve ate up more docs and music from the era. Woodrow was an interesting guy. Love the tune fella. Tom Russell sings a great tune about Woody. Moves me to the bone. I go on Guthrie jags often. Great pick.
I love Steinbeck too…FAR more than Fitzgerald or Hemingway from those years
Absolutely Dave. A little more grounded in real folks. I have Woody’s Library Of Congress recordings. Love the easy way he talks even when its about tragedy and he had his share.
Woody had traveled those highways- so did Steinbeck. Woody’s songs I think are a product of his travels. What a great observer he was. A great journalist.
In reading about Woody and his life- before his decline in health- what a character and what a life. I can’t imagine any artist today living a life like he did. Of course the times have changed but Woody was a true original.
The intro before Russell’s song kind of puts it in perspective, Ramblin Jack Elliot gives a short blurb on Woody. Sums it up for me. He was no pretender. Take him or leave him. I think we’ll take him. My kind of guy.
A standard for sure! I didn’t know that there were two other verses. Great story!! Great song!
Definitely a classic and great trivia about hidden verses! I vaguely remember singing it in school circa grade 4…and I was in Canada.
Wow didn’t know that it had crossed the border so well…