Tuesday, November 17, 2015

THIS LAND ORIGINAL LYRICS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

These are the original lyrics to This Land as Woody Guthrie wrote them on a piece of paper on February 23 (my birthday), 1940 (not the year of my birth--not even close):

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn't say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
(Source: Wikipedia)

I cannot find when the title was changed from This Land to This Land Is Your Land.

I remember when I was in elementary school that it was the very first song in our music book. It came before The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America and My Country 'Tis of Thee. I knew it had to be an important song.

What I didn't know was that our music book left out the more "controversial" verses about the high wall meant to stop people from going where they wanted and about the hungry people by the Relief Office.
I learned those verses when I became an adult. I heard Arlo Guthrie, Woody's son, recount the story of his father when he was near death from Huntington's disease in 1967. Woody insisted that Arlo write out ALL the verses to This Land Is Your Land. Many singers, including Arlo and Pete Seeger, made a special effort to sing the lyrics as Woody Guthrie wrote them.

However, folk singers often sing a song one way on a particular day, and then the next day they might change the lyrics. At times, Woody himself changed the lyrics to his songs.

Who owns This Land Is Your Land? Various organizations claim ownership because the song wasn't copyrighted for quite some time. Later, the copyright was allowed to lapse. Here's how Woody wrote the copyright:

“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.”

Because so many artists have covered this song, I ask a different person to sing it for us each day. How about it, Sharon Jones? Will you sing us out?


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug



P.S. You can vote in my Battle of the Bands HERE until midnight EST, Nov. 20. I'll announce the winner the next day. The two contenders are Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. If you're a Springsteen lover, then you better get over there to vote for him. BRUCE GETS TROUNCED might be the headline with the way the battle is headed.

If I'd known about Sharon Jones, I might have chosen her over Springsteen.

24 comments:

  1. Interesting history! I remember singing the song in elementary school and not really grasping its meaning.

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    1. None of us grasped the meaning because the verses about the wall and about hunger weren't taught to children. A lot of adults sang it without those verses, too. Most people probably still don't know that the verses exist.

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  2. Kinda funny. I know the original lyrics but I know it as This Land Is Your Land. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

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    1. I think the title was changed pretty early--maybe the mid-forties or the fifties.

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  3. I didn't know about those other verses, either. Very interesting!

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    1. I don't think children ever learn the entire song because we don't want to teach children to criticize our country. However, we all need to look at our country through analytical eyes to see how we can do better and be better.

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  4. Replies
    1. This Land really is for everyone, as far as Woody was concerned.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this information. I had no idea. It's fascinating.

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  6. I always loved Woody and Arlo. Arlo used to be a babe, but I'm getting off topic...

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    1. Oh, go right ahead and get off topic. I lurve Arlo. I have since I was, I don't know how old. I listened to the record of Alice's Restaurant at least a million times. I think he's been married more than forty years. Have you ever watched the Alice's Restaurant movie? Arlo's commentary on it is hilarious in spots. He was this goofy dude with long dark hair when he was young, and now he's a goofy dude with long gray hair. I call him goofy, but I think it's that he's a mellow, relaxed guy who loves his family and friends and has made the most of what God gave him.

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  7. It's such a wonderfully accessible song. One really does need all of the lyrics to understand Woody.

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    1. Oh, yes. Without the complete lyrics, the meaning of the song changes completely.

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  8. What a difference a verse makes. That is the best copyright I have ever read...not that I'm a connoisseur of copyrights.

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    1. The verses that we aren't taught make all the difference in the world. It would be nice if we all made a commitment to teaching our children the correct way to sing the song.

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  9. "will be mighty good friends of ourn"-Best line EVER!!!

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    1. Oh, yes. Woody liked to play up his hillbilly roots, too.

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  10. Interesting didn't know any of this and now I do but give it an hour and I would have forgotten

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    1. My memory isn't as good as it used to be.

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  11. Hey, Woody Guthrie was the first to use a "creative commons" copyright!

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  12. Janie, interesting tid-bits about this childhood classroom favorite tune. I had no idea these lines existed. Guthrie was really proud of America and no doubt brought up believing in God. I tell you what I certainly relate to his original wording God blessed America for me because that's how I feel often about this nation, but I know God blessed America for us all, even those who hate her. Thanks for sharing, my friend!

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    1. I find your comment exceptionally insightful and intelligent.

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