This Land Is Your Land, For Better And Worse
Woody's Most Famous Song Turns 80 This Year, And It Is Still Relevant
Not many people know more than the first verse, which is the main reason the song has become like a second National Anthem. Were the remaining four stanzas more well-known, "This Land Is Your Land" would likely be denounced as treason.
Woody Guthrie's ballad turns eighty this year, and it was recently celebrated in Town Hall in New York City. Among the artists paying tribute to the influential folk singer was Jeff Tweedy, the front man of Wilco who collaborated with Billy Bragg in the Nineties to make songs out of some unrecorded Guthrie lyrics.
Although the classic praises the beauty of the American landscape, its later verses point out less than flattering characteristics of the country. The New York Times summed it up perfectly in the article about the event for its anniversary.
The song is "An odd of complicated patriotism whose indictment of economic inequality still resonates," stated the February 21 edition.
Guthrie writes of the lengthy welfare lines in verse four, and the unhealthy, obsessive greed in verse five. He provides a view of the great country from the point of view of the less well-to-do, forced to walk its highways rather than ride.
Anyone even vaguely aware of Guthrie's legacy is not surprised by his criticism of the country he loved, since his catalogue is rife with such observations. Here are ten other groups of incisive words of indictment taken from songs by Woody Guthrie.
1. "It was a mighty thin stew, though, you could read a paper right through it. I always figured if it was a little bit thinner, some of these here politicians could have seen through it." -from Talkin' Dust Bowl Blues
2. "I fought every union with tooth and toenail and grew a six inch stinger in the middle of my tail. I grew horns, and then I cut them off, wanted to fool you." from Mean Talking Blues
3. "Through this life I travel, I see lots of funny men. Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen." -from Pretty Boy Floyd
4. "California is a Garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see, but believe it or not you won't find it so hot if you ain't got the do-re-mi." from Do Re Mi
5. "I'm going in to this battle, I'm going to take my union gun, We're gonna end this world of slavery before this battle's won." from All You Fascists
6. "Ham to ham and eggs to eggs, If I don't get a pension I'll have to beg. There's a lot of crooked politician men; It would be all right if it wasn't for them." from Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
7. "If you're a republican or a democrat, Or a white hood Ku Klux Klan,
No use to ring my doorbell, 'Cause I'll never be your man" from Ease My Revolutionary Mind
8. "I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project" from Old Man Trump
9. "Wherever little children are hungry and cry, Wherever people ain't free.
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights, That's where I'm a-gonna be, Ma.
That's where I'm a-gonna be." from Tom Joad
10. "My sweat can grease the engines, That makes the whole thing run
And the ruling class can kiss my ass ‘Cause I had a heap of fun" -from When My Fight For Life Is Over