This Land Is Your Land

Thanks to friends who read this, I have multiple suggestions for protest songs to consider in a daily habit. I hope for many more. I’ll kick this off with an ageless, eminently singable song by Woody Guthrie, although many times, the singers don’t get to the more pithy verses.

Leave it to Neil Young and Crazy Horse to jump right to the verses that often get ignored, adding their own rock-and-roll spice.

Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” befits the man who rambled the U.S., seeing first-hand the underside of American life and meeting the people who ground out an existence in a 1930s society that was determined not to see them.

While the verses most commonly sung aren’t overtly at what Guthrie was getting at, there are a few stanzas that reflect the unease Guthrie was feeling and the protest he voiced about the break-out hit of the time, “God Bless America.”

Sometime included is this verse by Guthrie: “As I went walking, I saw a sign there. / And on the sign it said, ‘No Trespassing.’ / But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing. / That side was made for you and me.”

I had the good fortune to read a 2002 essay by then doctoral candidate Mark Allan Jackson, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in American literature at Louisiana State University. The essay was made available by the University of Illinois Press through http://www.jstor.org.

Jackson cited several verses that don’t usually make it into the collections. They follow:

This one was penned by Woody Guthrie: “Nobody living can ever stop me, / As I go walking my freedom highway. / Nobody living can make me turn back. / This land was made for you and me.”

Peter Seeger added verses as well, including: “Maybe you been working just as hard as you’re able / And you just got crumbs from the rich man’s table / Maybe you been wondering, it it truth or fable / This land was made for you and me.”

Jerry J. Smith added this one: “We’ve logged the forests, / w’eve mined the mountains / We’ve dammed the rivers, but we’ve built fountains! / We got tires and plastic, and crowded freeways. This land was made for you and me.”

Not to be denied, Country Joe McDonald added two of his own: “As I was was walking that ribbon of highway / I heard the buzzing of a hundred chain saws / And the Redwoods falling, and the loggers calling / This land was made for you and me.”

“As I went walking the oil-filled coastline / Along the beaches fishes were choking / The smog kept rolling, the populations growing / This land was made for you and me.”

2 thoughts on “This Land Is Your Land

  1. There are a lot of verses there I’ve never heard, and artists I didn’t know had covered the song. The Guthrie verse that included the reference to signs brought this back to mind: a bit of a protest sign in its own right.

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