"This Land is Your Land" Celebrates 80th Anniversary
Folk singer songwriter Woody Guthrie’s legendary song ‘This Land Is Your Land’ is still made for you and me as the anthem turns 80 on February 23rd. The folk hero and his timeless song have Socially Sparked® our lives since 1940.
There have been many renditions over the decades of Woody’s unofficial classic anthem since originally penned. One main constant throughout all the renditions – each artist’s adaptation uses their art to inform and inspire – amplifying Woody’s words and beliefs.
'THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND': THE BACK STORY
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (Woody) was born in 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma. His formative years were during a turbulent time in American history with the onset of World War I, the Depression and The Dust Bowl.
The story goes that Woody wrote the lyrics to “This Land is Your Land” after arriving in New York City — just days after traveling across America over the course of two weeks. The lyrics reflect his observations and thoughts during his trek of the beautiful country and the people that make up America.
Originally titled “God Bless America For Me”, the story continues that Woody’s classic song was born partially in response to the noted Irving Berlin song “God Bless America” made famous by Kate Smith. It truly bothered the iconic folksinger that Berlin’s song was constantly played over the airwaves and further hyped by the U.S. government which used the song as a propaganda tool to promote the country’s entry into WWI.
THREE KEY FACTS TO KNOW - "THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND"
- Although “This Land is Your Land” was originally penned in 1940 when Woody was 27 years old, the song was not recorded until 1944 during a session in New York for Moses Asch, Founder of Folkways Records. Even so, the infamous song was not released by Folkways until 1951.
- There are many verses to the iconic song that were not made public until many years later due to the climate of the country at the time.
- Through the decades there have been many renditions of Woody’s endearing folk song by fellow musicians including son Arlo, that carry out his messages — from the likes of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to Jeff Tweedy, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco to Bruce Springsteen.
THE LYRICS WE DIDN'T HEAR 'TIL LATER
Woody Guthrie’s more radical lyrics were not included in the original recordings of the classic song but were publicly played and recorded by musicians that followed in his footsteps. Eighty years later, those lyrics still ring true today. Here are a few:
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.
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.
CELEBRATING 80 YEARS: CONCERT at NYC's TOWN HALL
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s timeless anthem “This Land is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie Center is hosting a concert on Feb. 23 at New York City’s iconic venue The Town Hall, around the corner from where Guthrie first wrote the song in 1940. The program will feature performances by musicians who follow in Guthrie’s footsteps, using their art to inform and inspire. Oklahoma native John Fullbright, Branjae, Gangstagrass, Haley Heynderickx, Jeff Tweedy and a few special guests. Tickets start at $50 plus fees and are available at thetownhall.org.
American folk singer songwriter Woody Guthrie stood for equality, diversity and social justice. His messages, through his music, stand the test of time and continue to be passed on from generation to generation thanks to his children, The Woody Guthrie Center and the many artists who follow in his footsteps. Yes, This Land is Still Made for You and Me! — Abbe is forever #SociallySparked Tweet us @sosparkednews & @asparks01