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It’s funny, I remember being taught this song when I was in elementary school as if it were an alternative national anthem of sorts. Which I suppose it is in a lot of ways — especially when you actually hear it played in its full, uncensored entirety.
As I grew older and became more interested in music and music history, I came to the realization that this song was not written by some generic armchair patriot, but by a vagabond who travelled our vast land by walking, hitchhiking and riding the rails. Woody Guthrie seriously knew this country inside and out — the good and the bad. A true American.
Guthrie’s words landed him in some hot water during the McCarthy era, and although never proven to be a communist, he was put on a few choice government lists. That didn’t stop him too much, but when “This Land Is Your Land” was recorded and released, the final version was actually censored a bit.
Guthrie’s folk-singing son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger have both made a point of singing the more radical verses to “This Land Is Your Land,” also reviving another verse that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper now in the possession of daughter Nora’s Woody Guthrie Archives.
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.
Nora Guthrie says she has an idea why these words may not have been recorded at the 1944 session — and why the ‘private property’ verse that was recorded was not issued. “This is the early ’50s, and [U.S. Sen. Joseph] McCarthy’s out there, and it was considered dangerous in many ways to record this kind of material,” she says…[read more]
A true patriot is one who does question and criticize their government. Someone who looks to truly better their nation, not those who blindly follow corrupt, money-hungry leaders while ignorantly waving the American flag above their heads. Those folks with the little flags attached to their car door windows are the worst. You know who you are…
Woody Guthrie was a true patriot and a true inspiration for many artists, writers, musicians and most importantly, true Americans. I’ll be raising my glass to him, and quite a few more patriots this evening. Id say 12 or so patriots should hit the spot. Mix that in with some fireworks and low IQs — baby, we got a stew going.
Happy Fourth of July, y’all! And stay safe, you fools!
All images via Wikipedia