THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND:
Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folk Song.
By Robert Santelli.
Running Press. 256 pp. $24
In the history of American popular songwriting, few composers have better blended hope and scorn than Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (1912–67), an artist who seemed to believe that you couldn’t have the one without the other. His acolyte, Bob Dylan, certainly has a way with a vituperative turn of phrase, but anger never sounded so righteous nor so proudly optimistic as when Guthrie sang “This Land Is Your Land,” a folk song that is both a paean to the country he loved and a critical broadside launched on behalf of all those—dreamers, migrant workers, poets, or anyone else—who ever felt that their vision of America had been compromised.
We encounter “This Land Is Your Land” so often in its myriad forms—as a jokey aside in a Simpsons episode, or as a grammar school memory, or as a sonic backdrop to the latest political rally—that sometimes Guthrie’s defiance gets lost. Most of us remember those bright opening lines:
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Colin Fleming’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and the Times Literary Supplement. His first book, Between Cloud and Horizon: A Relationship Casebook in Stories, is forthcoming.more from this author >>
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