This Land is Your Land

Performer and production credits:
Karol Bennett, soprano; Leone Buyse, flute; Hannah Holman, cello; Susan Oltsman Koozin, narrator; Tricia Park, violin; Rod Waters, piano; Michael Webster, clarinet; Blake Wilkins, percussion.
Bill Klemm, videographer and editor; Kate Dawson, director.

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
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
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
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!
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'
TIf this land's still made for you and me.
Chorus (X2)

This Land is Your Land is the balladeer Woody Guthrie's most famous song. It was written in 1940. According to popular accounts, Guthrie became tired of hearing the singer Kate Smith sing Irving Berlin's God Bless America on the radio, feeling that it sugar-coated the injustices and inequalities of American society. The melody is not his own, but actually that of a gospel song, The World's on Fire.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967) was born in Oklahoma. He met and married his first wife, Mary Jennings, in Texas. The couple had three children. During the "Dust Bowl"—the terrible drought during the Great Depression that afflicted the Midwest—Guthrie and his family moved to California. Guthrie's experiences roaming the country with the poor and disadvantaged made a deep impression on him, and were the inspiration for many of his songs. In 1939 or 1940, Guthrie moved to New York City. There, collaborating with folklorist Alan Lomax, he recorded hours of conversation and songs for the Library of Congress. Guthrie married twice more, and had four more children, including a son, Arlo, who became a famous songwriter in his own right. Later in time, Guthrie's behavior became more and more erratic. He was finally diagnosed with a rare disorder, Huntington's Chorea, which had also killed his mother. He was hospitalized until his death in 1967. The following quote perfectly captures Guthrie's populist spirit: "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

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