This Land

Our ribbon of highway hit a few bumps ….

… so we roamed and rambled a road less traveled …

… from the Redwood Forest …

… to the Gulf Stream Waters … (well … almost! I’m still boycotting Florida!)

… the sun was shining …

.. and a voice came chanting …

This land was made for you and me!

And the final verse of that song which we didn’t sing in summer camp:

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.

I always thought that Woody Guthrie wrote that song during the height of the Great Depression, but wikipedia tells me no, the lyrics were written in 1940 and the song recorded in 1944. That’s at the height of the World War II, a time when we’re all trained to believe the entire nation was uniformly pro-war, pro-America, the “greatest generation” of patriots sacrificing for the cause of freedom, etc. That Guthrie would record such a cynical message in 1944 (or be allowed to record it, I should say) is amazing to me.

It’s also interesting that the song went on to become such an iconic American tune, though I concede it’s primarily the first two politically correct verses which have been seared into the national consciousness and I suspect that all came later during the ’60s folk revival, anyway.

Still, this reminds me of the distorted view of history we all have.

More travels tomorrow ….


Filed under music, music and politics, travel

8 responses to “This Land

  1. I started singing after reading this… well, more like humming… I don’t know the lyrics…. 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 wa-oh-ters, this land was made for you and me. la la la My mom has a Peter, paul and mary cd with that song in it, I think.

  2. Well, if the song was written in 1940, this country was still recovering from the Great Depression, and I am sure the songwriter knew so many who were STILL out of work and who had lost their homes. WWII actually served 2 purposes…to stop Germany and Japan and also to provide work, in the War effort, for so many. But the administration of FDR created so many ways to provide jobs back then…the WPA, the CCC, to help folks. This is why our nation was so grateful to Roosevelt and definitely his wife, Eleanor…who traveled to many pockets of poverty and misery and investigated and suggested how our government could help. Today’s recovery from the BUSH recession is so very different because of the Power of Congress who for 4 years, has voted to block every single JOBS plan, the ACA, the Infrastruture Plan…And if the GOP/TEA wins, there will BE no jobs, no work on our crumbling roads and bridges. The ACA will be repealed, Social Security and Medicare will be destroyed. These are TRUE facts, found in the GOP Platform and in the Ryan budget. We need more Woody Guthries today, to tell the truth in song, in music, and who are so respected that the public will believe the truth.

  3. democommie

    Back in about 1971, I was home on leave and, while watching the news said something about Gen. Westmoredland being a tool. My dad told me that I shouldn’t criticize my superior officers. I told him that, unlike WWII, the nation was not 100% behind the Vietnam debacle. His reply was that there had been plenty of dissension during WWII. That’s all I got from his. I know he did his time and spent several years in India/Pakistan but he never talked about war and rarely talked about politics with me. He was 5 years younger than Mr. Guthrie and I don’t know if he had any idea who Woody was, but he was a bit of an iconoclast himself.

    • That’s a great story, Demo. I’ve read similar little snippets here and there, about anti-war protestors and conscientious objectors in WWII. It’s like the dirty little secret that shalt not be mentioned. But I find it so interesting. It’s as if the culture wants us to believe anti-war sentiment sprang forth out of nowhere in the Vietnam years. But there’s such a long history of it here. That’s a story that needs to be told.

  4. ThresherK

    I just finished reading a book about This Land is Your Land, which I highly recommend.

    It goes into Woody’s life, touches on his rambling (and boy, did he), his songwriting, recording, the political winds blowing, and how this song became popular with schoolkids, and then folkies in the ’60s. Of course, Dylan and Springsteen are in the mix, and the HUAC, and much more.

    The book also mentions “This land” as not strictly a “critical response” to “God Bless America”, but an answer to flesh out Irving Berlin’s piece, with some of the working-class grit that Woody lived and breathed.

    (And you may be interested to know that “GBA” was lyrically tweaked by Irving Berlin to change the words “to the right with a light from above” because Berling didn’t it to be interpreted as politically “right-wing”, before its debut.)

  5. Randy

    “A real good hearty war like that dies hard…No country likes to part with a good earnest war. It likes to talk about the war, write it’s history, fight it’s battles over and over again, and build monument after monument to commemorate it’s glories.”
    Carleton McCarthy. Confederate Veteran. Circa 1880.
    When you get back to Tennessee see if you can find a “Sons of Confederate Veterans” supporter that will tell you about the 1863 food riots lead by Confederate wives or the increasing ranks of deserters giving up the cause.
    Long history of romaticizing hard times in the good ole USA. “American Exceptionalism” the national religion.