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Intro

You've heard it so many times, it probably annoys you. It might even bring back bad memories of being made to sing songs at summer camp or elementary school. And even without the catchy tune, the lyrics can seem kind of tired and 1960s, too: "this land was made for you and me"? How hippie can you get?

But did you know that "This Land Is Your Land" is actually one of the most controversial songs around? And that it's way older than the 1960s? And that Glenn Beck hates it with a passion? And that it encompasses a paradox that may or may not be fundamental to American identity? Are you interested yet?

About the Song

ArtistWoody Guthrie Musician(s)Woody Guthrie (guitar, vocals)
Album
Year1951
LabelFolkway Records
Writer(s)Woody Guthrie
Producer(s)Moses Asch
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
In 2010, Fox News's Glenn Beck put up the lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land" on his show and indignantly pointed this out: "the final stanzas of this thing are clearly about social justice and no property rights."

Actually, we can't help but agree with Glenn on this one. When Woody Guthrie wrote this seemingly all-American anthem, he did actually mean it as a criticism of America—he was fed up with what he saw as blind patriotism surrounding the U.S. entry into World War II, and angry about all the poverty and suffering he'd seen while traversing the country in the later years of the Great Depression. What's more, he was an unabashed Communist (a real one, not just one that people falsely attacked during the fifties), and as it turns out, he really wasn't into property rights. To sum it up, "This Land Is Your Land" is not being rewritten by Glenn Beck as a Communist anthem—it actually is one. So what's it doing right smack in the middle of some of our most familiar Americana?

On the Charts

Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land" in 1940 and recorded it in 1944, but it was not released to the public until 1951, when the sheet music became available. Guthrie's real popularity dawned too late for him: the folk revival led dozens of famous folksters to cover his songs while he was hospitalized with Huntington's disease, unable to play or sing. He died in 1967. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and in 2000 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
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