Waking Up Woody

some more appropriate new words for a great old song

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Folk music has always been, as the sobriquet implies, ‘the people’s music’. In the U.S., to the extent that it has been socially or politically oriented, that music has a been a vehicle for ‘liberal — if not to say further ‘left’ than that — values’.

One great old folk song is “This Land Is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie. It is a veritable hymn to the idea of ‘the people’ as the owners of the nation. The first verse says it all:

This land is your land and 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

Yet, today the words of that song are somewhat jarring, especially that refrain that comes at the end of every verse: “This land was made for you and me.” Really?

I therefore propose some changes to that first verse, including the refrain, that takes into account the real owners of this land:

This land is your land and this land is my land/ It once was their land; it was taken from them/ From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters/ Killed them and took from them their land

To me, that new refrain fits very well with the rest of the verses:

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
Saw below me that golden valley
Killed them and took from them their land

I roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
All around me a voice was sounding
Killed them and took from them their land

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
Killed them and took from them their land

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Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice