This Land Is Your Land

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Woody Guthrie in 1943.

"This Land Is Your Land" is one of the best known folk songs in the United States. Its lyrics were written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1940, based on a melody that already existed. Guthrie's melody was very similar to the melody of "Oh, My Loving Brother". This was 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."[1] He used the same melody for the chorus and the verses.

Guthrie did not like Irving Berlin's song "God Bless America", sung at that time by Kate Smith. Guthrie was angry with the positive (smug) attitude of the song. He thought it was not realistic and the words sounded too proud of the country. The song was popular and was being played on the radio all the time. Tired of hearing it on the radio, he wrote a response originally named "God Blessed America For Me".[2]

Guthrie rewrote the lyrics and the title over time and the song finally became "This Land Is Your Land". He sometimes added more overtly political verses in line with his views of communism[3] than appear in recordings or publications.

Although Gutrie wrote the song in 1940, he did not record it until 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 was 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.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. Cray, Ed (2004). Ramblin Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 165. ISBN 0-393-32736-1.
  2. "The Story Of Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land'". NPR music. 15 February 2012. http://www.npr.org/2000/07/03/1076186/this-land-is-your-land. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  3. 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 Internet Archive. The Student Historical Journal 1996–1997, Loyola University New Orleans, 1996.
  4. The National Recording Registry 2002, The National Recording Preservation Board

Other websites[change | change source]