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What is the Meaning Behind the Song “This Land is Your Land”?

One of the most famous folk songs in the United States is Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land. It was quite popular in the 1940s. But was there another meaning to the song we didn’t know of?

The song “This Land is Your Land” was written as a criticism against the US government and capitalism. Woody Guthrie was so tired of hearing Kate Smith sing “God Bless America” initially; he sarcastically named the song “God Blessed America for Me.”

Who is Woody Guthrie?

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Okla, in 1912. The iconic song This Land is Your Land was recorded during a marathon in April 1944 session in New York. At the time, Guthrie was on shore leave from the Merchant Marines.

Guthrie grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. He was accustomed to church hymns, ballads, blues, fiddle tunes, and pop music. Exposure to different genres truly honed his talent. He was a gifted entertainer; he could dance, play the guitar and harmonica, and make up songs. Words and music were something he was good at.

At first, Guthrie’s family was pretty well off. His father was a politician and a successful businessman. But because of the economy and the issues with oil in the 20s and 30s, they started experiencing financial problems.

After Guthrie’s mother was admitted to a mental institution for a nervous breakdown, their family relocated to Pampa, Texas. This was when he decided to leave and find his own way. (Source: NPR)

How Many Versions of the Song Are There?

As we mentioned, the song was originally called God Blessed America for Me. The first version was composed on February 23, 1940, while Guthrie stayed at the Hanover House Hotel in New York. After the initial composition, Guthrie didn’t revise it until 1944.

He completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.

Joe Klein

In 1944, Guthrie revised the song and title. This is the song we are all familiar with. (Source: Union War)

What is the Meaning Behind the Song?

Guthrie’s song went viral and was almost as famous as the national anthem. This was even without it being played on the radio and jukeboxes.

The song was about equality and inclusion. And the underlying message of the song was simple and right in the lyrics; this land was made for you and me.

Guthrie passed in 1967. Even after his death, several artists continued to sing the song although, some verses were lost along the way.

The meaning of the song has evolved over the years, and it also symbolizes different things to different people. This is what makes the piece timeless.

President Ronald Reagan even used this song in his victory party in 1984, and he intended to invoke patriotism. (Source: Mental Floss)

The whole idea of a land is your spot on Earth, you know. A spot where you can claim safety, sanity.

Nora Guthrie, Woody’s Daughter

(Source: NPR)

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