This Land Is Your Land

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"This Land Is Your Land"
Song by Woody Guthrie
Published 1945
Recorded 1944
Genre Folk
Writer Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie in 1943.

"This Land Is Your Land" is one of the United States' most famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by American folk singer 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".[1] Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses in line with his sympathetic views of communism,[2] 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.[3]

Melody[edit]

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"[4] and had inspired their "Little Darlin', Pal of Mine."[5][6] 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.[citation needed]

Original 1940 lyrics[edit]

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,[7] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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 who were 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11]

Modern usage[edit]

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. It was performed many times by the cyclist choir, accompanied by guitarists and a wash-tub bassist, during the Wandering Wheels historic 1966 U.S. coast-to-coast bicycle trip. 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."[12]

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?"[13]

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.[14]

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 is my land? From California to the New York island?"

Variations[edit]

As is the case with many well-known songs, it has been the subject of an enormous number of variations and parodies. They include:

Versions about other countries[edit]

Many variants of the song have been recorded in which lyrics adjusted to fit other countries or regions. They include:

There is an Irish rebel song, which is often performed with "Let the People Sing".[19][20]
  • Belgian singing duo "Hanny and Adri" made a version in 1969 in Esperanto, titled "Jen Nia Mondo," literally "Behold Our World."[21][22]
  • Turkish folk singer Nuri Sesigüzel covered the song with Turkish lyrics.[23]

Other variations[edit]

The song has been recorded by many performers over the years, ranging from American hardcore band Hated Youth to Turkish performer Nuri Sesigüzel to reggae group The Melodians.

A version called "This badge is your badge", about FC United of Manchester, was written by fan Mickey O'Farrell, and is often sung by fans at the club's matches.[24]

In film, television, internet and books[edit]

The song has been sung by characters in many films, including Bob Roberts (1992), Stepmom (1998), The Luck of the Irish a Disney Channel movie, Up in the Air and Renée Zellweger in the 2010 film My Own Love Song.

It has been parodied many times, including:

  • In the Home Improvement episode "Too Many Cooks" (1994), Tim refers to Al as "Al 'This Land Is' Borland".[25]
  • A 1999 episode of Friends when Joey meets a man he believes to be his "hand-twin," resulting in the lyric "This hand is my hand."[26]
  • The 1999 film Sonnenallee features a version performed by Alexander Hacke, changing the geographical references in the first verse to match those of East Germany, where the film takes place.
  • The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Treehugger" (2000) with the words changed to "This log is my log, this log is your log" in reference to a runaway giant redwood tree.[27]
  • The Arthur episode "The Pride of Lakewood" with the words changed to "This school's a great school, this school's a cool school".
  • The June 27, 2009 episode of A Prairie Home Companion by Arlo Guthrie as "This Song is My Song".[28]
  • In Season 4, Episode 7 of The Big Bang Theory, the Indian-born Raj Koothrappali recites the first verse of the song out for fear of deportation in an interview with an FBI agent to clarify his relationship with the United States.[29]
  • It was featured as soundtrack for the 2011 Documentary The Ambassador[30]

Copyright controversy[edit]

In 2004, the website JibJab featured a parody of the song, featuring John Kerry and George W. Bush singing altered lyrics,[31] resulting in the Richmond Organization threatening legal action.[32] 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.[33] 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.

Media[edit]

Sample of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land is Your Land"

Problems playing this file? See media help.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Woody Guthrie: this man is your myth, this man is my myth". Xroads.virginia.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ Spivey, Christine A. This Land is Your land, This Land is My Land: Folk Music, Communism, and the Red Scare as a Part of the American Landscape at the Wayback Machine (archived June 25, 2008). The Student Historical Journal 1996–1997, Loyola University New Orleans, 1996.
  3. ^ The National Recording Registry 2002, The National Recording Preservation Board
  4. ^ The Carter Family – When The World's On Fire on YouTube
  5. ^ The Carter Family – Little Darling Pal of Mine on YouTube
  6. ^ Cray, Ed (2004). Ramblin Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 165. ISBN 0-393-32736-1. 
  7. ^ Klein, Joe, Woody Guthrie: A Life, Dell Publishing, 1980.
  8. ^ Woodie Guthrie can be heard singing that verse in a July 3, 2000, National Public Radio report by Nick Spitzer.
  9. ^ Original manuscript republished in Elizabeth Partridge, This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life & Songs of Woody Guthrie (New York: Viking, 2002), 85. ISBN 0-670-03535-1
  10. ^ "MP3 of Woody Guthrie singing". Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Woody Guthrie Biography". Woodyguthrie.org. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  12. ^ by Dave on July 21, 2008 (July 21, 2008). "Fretbase, Play Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land". Fretbase.com. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  13. ^ This Land Is Made For You And Me, in the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, We Are One, original broadcast by HBO, January 18, 2009.
  14. ^ Perrin, Kathleen (August 27, 2010). "Peter, Paul & Mary's cease-and-desist to NOM: Stop playing "This Land Is Your Land"". Prop 8 Trial Tracker. Courage Campaign. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ NFB – Collection – The Travellers: This Land Is Your Land[dead link]
  16. ^ Det här är ditt land on YouTube
  17. ^ Zounds – This Land/Alone on YouTube
  18. ^ Billy Bragg – This Land Is Your Land (UK Version) on YouTube
  19. ^ Charlie & the Bhoys – Let the People Sing/This Land on YouTube[dead link]
  20. ^ Let the people sing on YouTube[dead link]
  21. ^ jomo jen jia mondo on YouTube
  22. ^ JoMo – Jen nia mondo (KEF-koncerto) on YouTube
  23. ^ Nuri Sesigüzel - This Land on YouTube
  24. ^ Under the boadwalk – FC United article
  25. ^ Too Many Cooks, Home Improvement Archive
  26. ^ The One in Vegas (2), Friends episode guide, TV.com
  27. ^ Lisa the Treehugger, The Simpsons Archive
  28. ^ The Lives of the Cowboys script, A Prairie Home Companion, Saturday, June 27, 2009
  29. ^ The Big Bang Theory – Episodenguide, 4.07, Besuch vom FBI, German, Wednesday, April 4, 2013
  30. ^ The Ambassador (2011) - Soundtracks - IMDb, IMDb.com
  31. ^ "The Complete Lyrics of JibJab's "This Land" Parody / Travis' Column: Hot Off the Presses". Hopstudios.com. November 16, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  32. ^ "A Jibjab showdown". CNN. July 26, 2004. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  33. ^ Press Releases: August, 2004 | Electronic Frontier Foundation[dead link]

External links[edit]