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“This Land Is Your Land” Like Woody Wrote It January 21, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture.
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peter-seeger-and-springsteen

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, performing at Sunday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial. (Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)

18 January 2009by: Tommy Stevenson, Tuscaloosa News 

www.truthout.org    Bee Branch – At the conclusion of today’s concert for president-elect Barack Obama 89-year-old Pete Seeger joined Bruce Springsteen for a sing-along with perhaps half a million people of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” which I dare say practically everyone in the country knows from childhood.

 But sly old Pete, who actually hoboed with Woody during the Depression and Dust Bowl, had the crowd sing the song as it was actually written, as not only a celebration of this great land, but as a demand for workers’ and people’s rights. That is, he restored the verses that have been censored from the song over the years to make it less political:

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;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

    The “relief office,” of course, refers to the ad hoc soup bowls and such set up during the Depression before the New Deal began to get the social security net we have all depended upon since the 1930s in place.

    Seeger, like Guthrie, has been a controversial figure at times during his life, questioned by the witch hunting committees of Congress in the 1950s, black listed, and even banded from television as late as the late 1960s.

    But while he hasn’t got much of a voice left anymore and did not attempt to play his banjo today, it was wonderful to see the gleam in his subversive eye as he did his call and response with the throngs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Somewhere Woody – and Leadbelly, and Sonny and Cisco and the rest of the great balladeers of that bygone era – are smiling tonight.

    

    Full Lyrics
    Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

    This Land Is Your Land

    Chorus:
    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 waters
    This land was made for you and me

    As I was walking a ribbon of highway
    I saw above me an endless skyway
    I saw below me a golden valley
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

    I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
    And all around me a voice was sounding
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

    The sun comes shining as I was strolling
    The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
    The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

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

    Chorus

    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.

    Chorus (2x)

 

 

 

 
 

 

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