Monday, April 8, 2019

School Days and 'This Land Is Your Land'

Growing up in America in the 1960's every school child learned the Woody Guthrie song, This Land Is Your Land.

For me, it is my most enduring folk song because I have such fond memories of singing it in school with a room full of kids, countless times. 

I'm not going to get into Woody's politics, but the song was written in 1940 after Guthrie's was literally blown away in the great dustbowl of the 1930's and saw thousands of working people forced to migrate to California in the search of a better life. Woody spent a lot of his life as a 'rolling stone' and he saw our great country, and wrote about the land and it's people from his perspective.

This Land Is Your Land has three controversial verses that were edited out of the school songbook versions, as Woody's publisher adeptly kept the more global verses for the American school children to learn and become an American anthem.

Recently, I saw Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger's rendition from Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural where Pete would only do it if they sang all the verses. I also came across the NPR article, How 'This Land Is Your Land' Roamed And Rambled Into American Life. Last week I was reviewing My 100 Songs Playlist where I placed This Land Is Your Land as my first song.

I also love Gary Clark's Jr. new song, This Land . The track was inspired by "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie, with Clark commenting in an interview with American Songwriter: "It’s one of the first songs we learn, and we sing it together ... It's like the Pledge of Allegiance ... And when you're kids, everybody's together. You don't see differences until you get older, and older people influence you to think about other people a certain way. I just want to get back to singing that song like we were kids again, you know?" (Wikipedia)

This information kind of all collided at the same time for me to want to continue to celebrate this wonderful song this week. No matter your political stance we as Americans can all call this song, "our song."

My granddaughter Elliot is visiting, and she came up to me last night while I was writing this and asked me what I was doing. She smiled when I told her and said, "We sing that song in school." We then sang it together.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island; 
From the red wood 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've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps 
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; 
And 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, 
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: 
This land was made for you and me.

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.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, 
By the relief office I seen my people; 
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking 
Is this land made for you and me?

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.




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