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July 14, 2012

100 years of Woody Guthrie
Posted by Patrick at 10:38 AM * 19 comments

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, 100 years ago today. On the manuscript of “This Land Is Your Land” submitted to the US Copyright Office, he wrote: “This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

One suspects that Guthrie would have been just fine with this version.

Comments on 100 years of Woody Guthrie:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 10:59 AM:

And it's "Pastures of Plenty" wrote the dust-bowl balladeer,
And "This Land is Your Land" he wanted us to hear.

(Phil Ochs)

#2 ::: Brandt Hardin ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 11:02 AM:

The world still needs Woody Guthrie! He stood up for the little man and the working class. He fought for the rights of the common person and helped spread the ideal that this is truly “our land.” I paid tribute to the legendary musician with a portrait of Woody which you can see on my artist’s blog at where you can drop by and let me know how Woody’s voice has spoken to you as well.

#3 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 11:45 AM:

This year's Winnipeg Folk Fest had this as its theme, encouraging those bands it suited to slip in covers of his works (This Train was an obvious pick for the gospel set), and ending the last mainstage with a number of artists working en masse to present his songs. We left during this because of wanting to get home to baby, but stayed two or three songs extra because omg I know this song and have to hear it to the end. As mom said, it's remarkable how many songs that are just kind of out there in the folk community turn out to be his.

#4 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 12:29 PM:

I do not like this version. I approve of the sentiment, but most versions of this song have a dissonant quality that I dislike.

#5 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 12:37 PM:

Brandt Hardin @ 2:

We need Woody Guthrie today more than we ever have. The working class is under attack as never since the time of the Robber Barons, and there is a widespread attempt to destroy unions. The incidence of (and deaths by) Black Lung among coal miners is rising as mine owners cut back on safety and health expenditures, while simultaneously funding "studies" designed to obfuscate the science that ties coal dust to the disease. And so on. We need another Woody to remind us that it is indeed our land, not the bankers' land.

#6 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 01:47 PM:

If "this land" stretches "from California to the New York island", does that mean Alaska, Hawaii, New England, and Long Island (including Brooklyn) were not made for you and me? (Florida is covered by the reference to the "Gulf Stream waters".)

#7 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 02:00 PM:

Avram @6:

Arlo Guthrie: "After a while though, it come to me. I could see it, just because it said 'California to the New York Island', didn't mean it had to go the short way! I could see it going around back! Redwood Forests, Gulf Stream waters, around that way! Then the whole world could be singing that song!"

a beat

"Except America."

#8 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 02:51 PM:

A good post to accompany the more famous July 14th holiday.

All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose.

#9 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 04:11 PM:

Avram (6): Long Island can't be "the New York island"?

#10 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 05:38 PM:

Avram, #6: Woodie Guthrie wrote those lyrics in 1940. Alaska and Hawai'i did not become states until 1959. The lyrics might need some updating, but that's not his fault.

As for "the New York island", I always took that to mean he picked a handy location on the East Coast, just as he did with California on the West Coast. (Or do you think Oregon and Washington aren't covered either?)

#11 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 10:18 PM:

I never knew that Woody Guthrie was born on Bastille Day!

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 10:44 PM:

I think Avram was being puckish. We don't really need to get into a literal-minded wrangle over lyrics that are obviously figurative. "This Land Is Your Land" is not a work of cartography.

(And if we're going to be literal-minded, we can note that Alaska and Hawaii were certainly US territory in the 1940s, even if they didn't happen to be organized as states yet. I seem to recall that an attack on Hawaii was our causus belli for declaring war in the Pacific...)

(I speak, incidentally, as someone born on the very last day of the 48-state United States.) (But not, as I used to think, the last day of the 48-star flag. Evidently the custom is to add stars for newly-admitted states on the 4th of July following their admission. So we added the 49th star on July 4, 1959, and the 50th on July 4, 1960.)

#13 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 08:46 AM:

In Australia, Radio National is marking the occasion with several special programs.

(You don't have to miss out if you're not in Australia; RN streams all its programs on the web after broadcast, and welcomes international listeners.)

#14 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 10:06 AM:

For me, the best thing about this version is it has the magic verses about the sign saying "No Trespassing" and the people at the relief office. BTW, if you like this sort of thing, I would recommend Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra's album "Prairie Home Invasion" out on Alternative Tentacles. It's just a tad leftish. :)

#15 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 10:10 AM:

Dear ML,

My last post was gnomed with nary an URL to my name (unless you count the one in the "your URL" field).

FYI and all that.

#16 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 10:11 AM:

PNH at #12: What's the second-longest period the United States has gone without adding a new star to its flag? Way shorter than 62 years, I'll bet.

#17 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 11:06 AM:

Bill Higgins @15: I'm pretty sure it was the 47 years between the Arizona-New Mexico admissions and the Hawaii-Alaska admissions. After that, I'd guess the third-shortest period is under thirty years. Maybe even under twenty.

#18 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 11:08 AM:

@me above. Sorry, third-longest. Obviously.

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 01:12 PM:

Wikipedia's list of dates of admission of US states.

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