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This Land is Your Land

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"This Land is Your Land" is one of the United States's most famous folk songs, written by Woody Guthrie in 1940. It was originally penned in response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Guthrie considered that song unrealistic and complacent, and was tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio. Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses that often do not appear in recordings or publications.

Woody Guthrie lifted the melody of "This Land Is Your Land" essentially note-for-note from "When the World's on Fire," a song recorded by country/bluegrass legends, The Carter Family, ten years before Guthrie wrote his classic song.

In the original version of "This Land is Your Land" Guthrie protested class inequality with the verse,

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me.

and protested the institution of private ownership of land with the verse,

As I went walking, I saw a sign there;
And on the sign there, It said, 'NO TRESPASSING.'
But on the other side, It didn't say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.

In another version, the sign reads "Private Property."

Guthrie first recorded the song in 1944, and first published it in 1945, in a mimeographed booklet of ten songs that contains typed lyrics and hand drawings. The booklet was sold for 25Ę, and "Copyright 1945" was written on the cover.

The first known professionally printed publication was in 1956 by Ludlow Music (now a unit of The Richmond Organization), which administered the publishing rights to Guthrie's tune. Ludlow later issued versions with piano and guitar accompaniments. A version with the more political "no trespassing" and "relief office" verses was published in 1972.

In 1986, Bruce Springsteen released a live cover of the song on his box set Live/1975-85. He had been playing the song, prefacing it with the story of its origin, throughout his Born in the U.S.A. tour.

George H. W. Bush used This Land as a campaign song in his runs for the Presidency, perhaps an unusual choice for a Republican, considering its socialist origins.

In 2004, the Web site JibJab featured a parody (http://www.hopstudios.com/nep/column/jibjab_this_land_lyrics.html) of the song, resulting in the Richmond Organization threatening legal action [1] (http://money.cnn.com/2004/07/26/commentary/wastler/wastler/) (the parody featured John Kerry and George W. Bush singing altered lyrics to the song). At this point, it was noticed that the copyright to the original 1945 publication had expired in 1973, when it was not renewed as then required by copyright law.[2] (http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2004_08.php#001838) The Richmond organization settled with Jibjab shortly thereafter. It still, however, claims copyright on other versions of the song, such as those appearing in the 1956 and later publications. Legally, such claims only apply to original elements of the song that were not in the public domain version.

Lyrics from 1945 version

Below are the lyrics of the song as given in the 1945 booklet. (These are somewhat different from the lyrics in later published editions.)

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the Redwood Forest to the New York Island
The Canadian mountain to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is made for you and me.
As I go walking this ribbon of highway
I see above me this endless skyway
And all around me the wind keeps saying:
This land is made for you and me.
I roam and I ramble and I follow my footsteps
Till I come to the sands of her mineral desert
The mist is lifting and the voice is saying:
This land is made for you and me.
Where the wind is blowing I go a strolling
The wheat field waving and the dust a rolling
The fog is lifting and the wind is saying:
This land is made for you and me.
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land is made for you and me.

The Bound for Glory (http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie/index_800.html) exhibit at the Museum of Musical Instruments includes images of Guthrie's original 1940 manuscript (http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/3448/thisl1.html), as well as the 1972 published version (http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie/sheet_music/this_land.html) of the song.

Canadian variation

In Canada, the song is sometimes sung with the first verse altered to make Canadian geographical references:

This land is your land, This land is my land,
From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters,
This land was made for you and me.

This version of the lyrics was written and popularized by Canadian folk music group The Travellers in 1955.[3] (http://www.onf.ca/thetravellers/)

Parodies

As with many popular songs, this one has not escaped the notice of lampooners. This well-known elementary-school version could have been sung by the guy on the other side of the "Private Property" sign referenced by Woody Guthrie:

This land is my land, it isn't your land
I got a shotgun, and you ain't got one
If you don't get off, I'll blow your head off
This land was made for only me

Many sites reference variations on the above, such as: [4] (http://www.techimo.com/forum/t144551.html) [5] (http://www.wessalmon.com/000198.html)

This one is of more recent vintage. It starts like this:

This land is my land, and only my land
And I just take land if I canít buy land
And if I spy land, well, then itís my land.
This land was made for only me.

The whole thing is at: [6] (http://www.patriotactband.com/ThisLand.html)


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