Everyone knows Woody Guthrie's song "This Land is Your Land." In fact, I'd bet more people know it than know the "Star-Spangled Banner," and it's been suggested as a national anthem. The way everyone knows it, it's an idealistic patriotic song:
As I was walking a ribbon of highway I saw above me an endless skyway I saw below me a golden valley This land was made for you and me
What often eludes notice is the fact that Guthrie wrote this song as a cynical response to "God Bless America," yet he was never allowed to record two verses. Joe McCarthy's fanatical rampage was still several years away, but both Guthrie and his label knew what would happen if he did record especially the last verse. Yet it's in the manuscript for posterity...
Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me A sign was posted, said "No Trespassing" But on the back side, it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple By the relief office I saw my people-- As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering If this land was made for you and me?Then again, when I think about the idiots that told Woody Guthrie what he couldn't sing, I remember that without any censorship, "Born in the USA" has been accepted as another of those cheesy happy patriotic songs, when all it takes is one listen to convince yourself that it simply isn't. Maybe the record execs just saved the listeners the trouble of misinterpreting Woody's message.
I was in fact fortunate enough to see Arlo Guthrie himself perform this song, in its entirety, at the Hatch Shell on the Boston Esplanade on July 4, 2001.