Several months into our work on Songs of Protest and we finally get to the American father of protest music, Woody Guthrie. Of course, we could highlight any one of his songs but this one takes on the big picture: this land is for all of us, not just some. Guthrie’s views on the appropriation of property are captured beautifully from his copyright submission for the song:
“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.”
The familiar versions do not include some of his most potent lyrics, such as:
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?
Here is a live version from Springsteen, who called it “the greatest song ever written about America.” For our playlist, we use a fantastic version from Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and one from Woody himself.