Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Great Banned Song, Featuring a Great Blacklisted Songwriter

Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger "This Land Is Your Land"

Which a lot of folks don't know, was written as a protest song. Woody Guthrie was riding frieght trains around the Central Valley, trying to organize workers and pick some fruit, and some guitar when he could. I've done both myself and I'd a damn site rather pick guitar or banjo than fruit.

Woody was there riding the rails, during the depression when he heard Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" being belted out by Sophie Tucker. That wasn't the America Woody was seeing. This is what Woody wrote:

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'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

Later in his life, Woody knew he was dying. One of the things he made sure to do before he died was to make his son Arlo, his good friend Pete Seeger, Rambling Jack Elliot, and just about every other musician he knew, Cisco, Burl Ives, all of them; Woody made them promise that they'd do the whole song. He made them swear to perform the last two verses. Those bitter verses.

Sing them all folks. Sing them out proudly.

We may have to all go down, but we can damn sure go down singing. When we're locked away in Guantanamo or what ever concentration camps they have Halliburton build for people of conscience, I promise to teach ya'll the words to "Guantanamera."