Format Web Pages
Contributors Library of Congress
Dates 2002
Location Washington
Washington D.C.
Subjects Article
Popular Songs of the Day
Songs and Music
Songs Collections
This Land is Your Land
Created / Published
Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002.
Subject Headings
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Songs Collections
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Image: Woody Guthrie playing guitar Woody Guthrie playing guitar. Al Aumuller, photographer, March 8, 1943. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

This land is your land
this land is my land . . .

Woody Guthrie, the composer of "This Land Is Your Land," was one of the most influential voices in the entire American folk music tradition. His personal and musical styles were deeply influenced by his childhood in rural Oklahoma during the Great Depression years, which led him to a hobo life-style, a powerful dislike of greed, and a deep appreciation for the diversity of America's everyday folk.

In February 1940, Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land" in reaction to Irving Berlin's song "God Bless America." Guthrie heard Berlin's song repeatedly while he traveled cross-country and became increasingly annoyed that it glossed over the lop-sided distribution of land and wealth that he was observing and had experienced as a child. Although Guthrie was no statistician his observations accurately reflected the fact that, even in the depths of the Depression, nearly 20 percent of the nation's wealth rested with one percent of its population.

Image: Clouds Clouds. Light clouds over highway and phone poles II. Horydczak, Theodor, photographer. ca 1920-50. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Guthrie originally entitled his song "God Blessed America for Me," a line repeated at the end of each verse. By the time he first recorded the song with Cisco Houston, in April 1944, he changed the lines to "This land was made for you and me," which invokes the title by which his song has been known ever since -- "This Land Is Your Land." Amazingly Guthrie and Houston recorded over 160 songs during that prolific set of recording sessions. Since then "This Land Is Your Land" has been re-recorded by numerous vocal artists including: Bing Crosby, Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, Fred Waring, Pete Seeger, and the Limeliters.

Sometime before April 1944 Guthrie removed the final verse he originally wrote for "This Land Is Your Land." In its place he eventually wrote an additional verse that appeared in his 1946 mimeographed pamphlet entitled Ten Songs for Two Bits.

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my Freedom Highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

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Print Bibliography
  1. Guthrie, Woody. Pastures of plenty: a self-portrait. Edited by Dave Marsh and Harold Leventhal. New York: HarperCollins, 1990. Call number: ML410 .G978 A3 1990.
  2. Santelli, Robert. "Beyond Folk: Woody Guthrie's impact on rock and roll," in Hard travelin': the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie, ed. Robert Santelli and Emily Davidson. Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1999. Call number: ML410 .G978 H37 1999.
  3. Yurchenco, Henrietta. A mighty hard road: the Woody Guthrie story. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970. Call number: ML410 .G978 Y9.