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(s) 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, a Carter Family tune called "When the World's on Fire", in critical response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." When Guthrie was tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio in the late 1930s he sarcastically wrote "God Blessed America for Me" before renaming it "This Land Is Your Land." [1]

The original lyrics to the song included this verse:

"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me. The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.' But on the backside, it didn't say nothing. This land was made for you and me."[1]

This verse was never released even though it was recorded by Moses Asch in 1944. This original version was basically lost, until a Smithsonian archivist, Jeff Place, heard the master version of it on the acetate record in 1997 when it was being transferred to a digital format. This transfer was made in order to preserve its history for the museum.[1] Guthrie also wrote another protest verse that was never officially recorded but was celebrated by his own son, the folksinger Arlo Guthrie, as well as Pete Seeger. They even made a point to sing the more radical verses to "This Land Is Your Land," and they also revived verses that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was found by, and is still in possession of, Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora.

"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."[1]

Nora Guthrie mentioned that she had an idea about why these words were never recorded at the 1944 session and why the 'private property' verse that was recorded was never issued. In her own words she said, "This is the early '50s, and [U.S. Sen. Joseph] McCarthy's out there, and it was considered dangerous in many ways to record this kind of material." She went on to say that, "If my dad had done the recording, I don't think it would have meant anything to him if he was imprisoned, actually." "He was quite used to living without and having nights in prison and things like that. Like most of the things, if we're talking about my dad, it gets very complex here. So I think, you know, The Weavers originally just recorded the first three verses — which, in one way, was very, very helpful to my dad, because we had no money. So thank God that they recorded something, and our family was able to get some royalties from that." [1] Eventually, Guthrie lost his ability to play guitar and his ability to sing but he continued to write and to inspire a younger generation of performers, including Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, and the band Wilco.

When Guthrie recorded "This Land Is Your Land," he ended it with this verse:

"When the sun comes shining, then I was strolling, With the wheat fields waving, the dust clouds rolling, The voice come a-chanting, and the fog was lifting. This land was made for you and me." [1]

In 2002, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.[2]


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"[3] and had inspired their "Little Darlin', Pal of Mine."[4][5] 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 third line; the melodic phrase for his fourth line ("This land was made for you and me") is found in neither the hymn nor the Carter family melodies.[citation needed]

Original 1940 lyrics[edit]

Following are the original lyrics[6] 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,[6] 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.[7] has a variant:[8]

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:[8]

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, it was 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]

The radical verses are not often performed in schools or official functions. They can be best interpreted as a protest against the vast income inequalities that existed then in the United States, and against the sufferings of millions during the Great Depression. America, Guthrie insists, was made—and could still be made—for you and me. This interpretation is consistent with such other Guthrie songs as "Pretty Boy Floyd"[12] and Guthrie's lifelong struggle for social justice.

The song was revived 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 first began performing it live on the River Tour in 1980, and released one such performance of it on Live/1975–85, in which he called it "about one of the most beautiful songs ever written."[13]

The song was performed 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?"[14]

Voice actress and children's entertainer Debi Derryberry recorded a version for her musical album What A Way To Play in 2006.

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.[15]

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?"


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 with lyrics adjusted to fit other countries, regions, languages, and ethnic groups. They include:

This land is your land, This land is my land,
From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters,
This land was made for you and me.[17][18]
  • The UK anarcho-punk band Zounds rewrote it for their 1981 debut LP, The Curse of Zounds, releasing a remixed CD-single version as a fund-raising benefit in 2001.[20]
  • Billy Bragg has used a version of the song with UK-specific lyrics in live performances. A version was included on the bonus tracks section of the 2006 re-release of his The Internationale album.[21]

Other variations[edit]

The song has been recorded by many performers over the years, ranging from American Country legend Glen Campbell, hardcore band Hated Youth, all the way 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.[34]

In film, television, internet, books, and advertising[edit]

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

It has been parodied many times, including:

  • A differently worded version of the song was featured in "Disneyland Showtime", a 1970 episode of The Wonderful World of Disney, performed by The Kids of the Kingdom with Jay and Donny Osmond. Here, the lyrics were changed to describe the many attractions and experiences at Disneyland.
  • In the Home Improvement episode "Too Many Cooks" (1994), Tim refers to Al as "Al 'This Land Is' Borland".[35]
  • 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."[36]
  • 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.[37]
  • 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".[38]
  • 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.[39]
  • It was featured as soundtrack for the 2011 documentary The Ambassador.[40]
  • In the television series Northern Exposure (episode "Northern Hospitality" Season 5 #16), Holling Vincoeur sings a modified version with references to Canada to his wife, Shelly Vincoeur.
  • In 2016, Budweiser temporarily rebranded their flagship beer "America", and included the lyrics "...from the redwood forests, to the gulfsteam waters, this land was made for you and me" on their labels. [41]
  • Lady Gaga sang a few phrases of the song at the beginning of the performance of her halftime show of the 2017 Super Bowl[42][43]

Copyright controversy[edit]

In 2004, the website JibJab featured a parody of the song, featuring John Kerry and George W. Bush singing altered lyrics,[44] resulting in the Richmond Organization threatening legal action.[45] 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.[46][47] 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.

The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music were sued in 2016 over their claims of copyright in a lawsuit led by Randall Newman. In a similar case, Newman previously successfully argued the song "Happy Birthday to You" was public domain.[48]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Spitzer, Nick. "The Story Of Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land'". Retrieved 2016-03-14. 
  2. ^ The National Recording Registry 2002, The National Recording Preservation Board
  3. ^ The Carter Family – When The World's On Fire on YouTube
  4. ^ The Carter Family – Little Darling Pal of Mine on YouTube
  5. ^ Cray, Ed (2004). Ramblin Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 165. ISBN 0-393-32736-1. 
  6. ^ a b Klein, Joe, Woody Guthrie: A Life, Dell Publishing, 1980.
  7. ^ Woodie Guthrie can be heard singing that verse in a July 3, 2000, National Public Radio report by Nick Spitzer.
  8. ^ a b ""This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie". 
  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". Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  12. ^ Guthrie, Woody. "Pretty Boy Floyd". Woody Guthrie. 
  13. ^ Dave on July 21, 2008 (July 21, 2008). "Fretbase, Play Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land". Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ "NFB- The Travellers: This Land is Your Land". National Film Board of Canada. Archived from the original on January 29, 2002. 
  17. ^ Martin Avery (2008). Bobby Orr and Me. Martin Avery; p. 140. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  18. ^ Garden Gnome (January 10, 2009). "This Land is Your Land (Canadian Version)". Canadian Perspective. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  19. ^ Det här är ditt land on YouTube
  20. ^ Zounds – This Land/Alone on YouTube
  21. ^ Billy Bragg – This Land Is Your Land (UK Version) on YouTube
  22. ^ E. Wyn James (2005). "Painting the world green: Dafydd Iwan and the Welsh protest ballad". Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  23. ^ Charlie & the Bhoys – Let the People Sing/This Land on YouTube[dead link]
  24. ^ Let the people sing on YouTube[dead link]
  25. ^ jomo jen jia mondo on YouTube
  26. ^ JoMo – Jen nia mondo (KEF-koncerto) on YouTube
  27. ^ Nuri Sesigüzel - This Land on YouTube
  28. ^ Paul the Stockman (January 29, 2011). "Shirley Jacobs "Songs of Love and Freedom" LP 1975". Australian Folk Music and Australian Folk Singers and Musicians. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  29. ^ Iain Gillespie and Debbie Jacobs (January 15, 2016). "Night Train reaches the end of the line". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  30. ^ Renée Montaigne (November 8, 2007). "Mexican Folk in the Heart of Chicago". National Public Radio: Morning Edition. Retrieved February 14, 2017. 
  31. ^ Juan Díes (2007), Esta Tierra Es Tuya: Production Notes [enclosure with album CD] 
  32. ^ Aaron Cohen (September 18, 2014). "Sones De Mexico's polite sonic insurrection". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2017. 
  33. ^ "A chat with Sones de México's Juan Diés [sic]". Connect Savannah. September 23, 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2017. 
  34. ^ "Under the boadwalk – FC United article" (PDF). 
  35. ^ Too Many Cooks, Home Improvement Archive
  36. ^ The One in Vegas (2), Friends episode guide,
  37. ^ Lisa the Treehugger, The Simpsons Archive
  38. ^ The Lives of the Cowboys script, A Prairie Home Companion, Saturday, June 27, 2009
  39. ^ The Big Bang Theory – Episodenguide, 4.07, Besuch vom FBI, German, Wednesday, April 4, 2013
  40. ^ The Ambassador (2011) - Soundtracks - IMDb,
  41. ^ Plaugic, Lizzie. "Budweiser has a new name, and that name is America". Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  42. ^ CNN, Chloe Melas. "Lady Gaga brings message of inclusion to Super Bowl halftime -- oh, and drones". 
  43. ^ "If you thought Lady Gaga's halftime show was apolitical, consider the origin of 'This Land is Your Land'". 
  44. ^ "The Complete Lyrics of JibJab's "This Land" Parody / Travis' Column: Hot Off the Presses". November 16, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  45. ^ "A Jibjab showdown". CNN. July 26, 2004. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  46. ^ "Music Publisher Settles Copyright Skirmish Over Guthrie Classic". EFF: Press Room. 2004-08-24. Archived from the original on 2004-08-26. Retrieved 2015-05-15. 
  47. ^ Dean, Katie (2004-08-24). "JibJab Is Free for You and Me". Wired News. Archived from the original on 2004-08-26. Retrieved 2015-05-15. 
  48. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (18 June 2016). "Lawyers who yanked "Happy Birthday" into public domain now sue over "This Land"". Ars Technica. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 

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