Study Guide

This Land Is Your Land Introduction

This Land Is Your Land Introduction

In a Nutshell

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? 

Interested yet?

About the Song

ArtistGuthrie, Woody
Year1951
LabelFolkway Records
Writer(s)Woody Guthrie
Producer(s)Moses Asch
Musician(s)Woody Guthrie (guitar, vocals)
Learn to play

Music Video

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Influences on Guthrie, Woody

The Carter Family
Will Rogers
Jimmie Rodgers
The Little Red Songbook

Influenced by Guthrie, Woody

Bob Dylan
Bruce Springsteen
Donovan
Pete Seeger
Ramblin Jack Elliot
Dan Bern
Billy Bragg
Ani DiFranco
Wilco
The Klezmatics
Arlo Guthrie

This Land Is Your Land Resources

Books

Ed Cray: Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (2004)
The latest in long-winded Guthrie biographies, competing with Joe Klein's for the title of "authoritative biography."

Joe Klein: Woody Guthrie: A Life (1999)
The first in-depth biography of Woody Guthrie to come out—surprisingly, not until 1999.

Robert Santelli and Emily Davidson (editors): Hard Travelin': The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie (1999)
This is an academic volume reflecting on the meaning of Guthrie's life and music in American culture.

Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jacobsen: This Land is Your Land
A sweet picture book whose words are just the song lyrics. Great for little kids or big fans.

Woody Guthrie: Bound for Glory (1943)
A rambling record of some of Guthrie's traveling experiences, brought to us in the voice of the poet himself.

Albums

Woody Guthrie: The Asch Recordings: Volume I
A great restoration of the original recordings Guthrie did with producer Moses Asch at Folkway Records includes two versions of "This Land is Your Land."

The Weavers: Greatest Hits (1990)
Pete Seeger and friends give us their version of "This Land" and other folk classics.

Up In the Air Soundtrack
Sharon Jones graces us with her version of "This Land is Your Land."

Images

Woody Guthrie: "This Machine Kills Fascists"
Guthrie with his famous guitar insignia. Was he the first punk rocker?

Guthrie cover photo from the Asch Recordings series
A classic image of Guthrie, cigarette in mouth and guitar in hand.

Classic Woody Portrait
This captures a little bit of the whimsy of his personality.

The Almanac Singers
Guthrie with his wacky crew in New York, early 1940s.

Woody Guthrie Painting
Pretty much everything about Woody Guthrie has become legendary and iconic—this is just a sample of the pretty Woody portraiture you can find out there.

Movies & TV

Bound For Glory (1976)
This film dramatizes Guthrie's story, apparently with some success and even accuracy.

Woody Guthrie: This Machine Kills Fascists (2005)
This is the heftiest documentary out there on Guthrie's life, clocking in at almost three hours and providing plenty of juicy detail for the Guthrie enthusiast—although, according to some reviews, not enough of the actual music.

American Masters: Woody Guthrie (2007)
PBS documents Guthrie's life as a part of its classic series.

Websites

The Official Woody Guthrie Website
Though the layout is a little awkward, the site includes a good biography, a detailed listing of the contents of the Woody Guthrie archives, and free listening to lots of great songs.

Arlo Guthrie Website
Woody Guthrie left many legacies. One of his most important is his folk singing son, Arlo Guthrie.

Video & Audio

Woody Guthrie does "This Land"
Most of the best-known versions of this song are by other singers, but Guthrie did record it himself in 1944.

Pete Seeger and friends: "This Land is Your Land"
Seeger and friends filled Madison Square Garden in 2009 with the sounds of Guthrie for Seeger's 90th birthday party.

Bruce Springsteen: "This Land is Your Land" Live
This is him in 1985, but he brought it back in 2009 (see below). Springsteen hearts Guthrie!

Springsteen and Seeger at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration
Seeger, still a fun guy at age 89, subversively brought back some of the more radical lyrics. Naturally, a diverse chorus of middle school students (um, who are those people?) sings along in the background; also to be expected, Seeger wears a gnome hat. Or is that an elf hat?

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