Friday, January 29, 2021

This Land is Your Land

 ‘Life’s pretty tough …you’re lucky if you live through it.’ - Woody Guthrie

At Biden's inauguration Jennifer Lopez started off the festivities off with a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land…but, of course did not sing all the relevant and pertinent verses of the original

As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there
And that sign said “No trespassin'”
But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me

This article by a biographer goes into more detail about Woody Guthrie and his song.

"...Once you have read the song’s lyrics in their entirety, the title phrase sheds all quasi-Kumbaya resonances and becomes what Guthrie meant it to be: a defiant, deeply radical statement of opposition to capitalist exploitation. The song’s words are critical and fierce, not cosy and reassuring: This land is your land, it declares to its listeners, not the land of the people who, according to market logic, own it, hold the deeds to it, exploit it for profit. Land is not a commodity. Those deeds are fictions, and the owners are, essentially, thieves..."

"... Initially written in 1940 as a retort to Irving Berlin’s jingoistic God Bless America, Guthrie’s song is a scathing condemnation of the very idea that land can be owned, treated as property. In a rarely aired verse of the original lyrics, a sign reading “private property” interrupts the wandering minstrel’s cross-continental stroll. But the disturbance is only momentary, for the singer quickly notes that “on the other side, it didn’t say nothing/That side was made for you and me”. And, in another little-known verse, the singer witnesses starving people lined up at a soup kitchen, leading him to shift the refrain to a question: “Is this land made for you and me?” ..."

Further reading:

Woody Guthrie. Resonant Voice for the Downtrodden: Woolly-Eyed Lefty (

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