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This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)

DigiTrad:
THIS LAND AIN'T YOUR LAND
THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND
THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND


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DonMeixner 26 Aug 05 - 05:21 PM
Le Scaramouche 26 Aug 05 - 05:36 PM
GUEST,Jeff Place 26 Aug 05 - 10:26 PM
GUEST,Jeff Place 26 Aug 05 - 10:34 PM
Peace 26 Aug 05 - 10:37 PM
Joe Offer 26 Aug 05 - 10:44 PM
GUEST,Jeff Place 26 Aug 05 - 10:50 PM
Joe Offer 26 Aug 05 - 11:03 PM
GUEST,Jeff Place 26 Aug 05 - 11:08 PM
DonMeixner 27 Aug 05 - 12:57 AM
Peace 27 Aug 05 - 01:13 AM
Desert Dancer 05 Jul 12 - 06:46 PM
Newport Boy 06 Jul 12 - 03:33 AM
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Subject: Folklore: This Land Is Your Land
From: DonMeixner
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 05:21 PM

I'm interested to know who recorded this song first. I'm suspecting The Almanac Singers and not Woody performing on his own. But that is pure speculation on my part. Any ideas as to earliest performances and recordings.

I'm using the song in a guitar players workshop and I like to be able to tell a little more than usual about a song when I can.

Don


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Subject: RE: Folklore: This Land Is Your Land
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 05:36 PM

Maybe they got radio play first, but pretty sure Woody recorded his own song before the Almanacs.


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:26 PM

Jeff Place from the Smithsonian here. Woody first recorded it in April 1944 for Moe Asch as part of a session where he and Cisco Houston recorded dozens of songs. It included the now missing "Private Property" verse. He recorded the abridged version we all know in 1947. On the original recording disc it's labelled "This Land Was Made for Me". Woody originally wrote the song as "God Blessed America for You and Me" because he was tired of hearing Kate Smith sing God Bless America, thought it said nothing about the poor. It wasn't released on record until much later (early 50s). From a conversation I once had with Harold Leventhal and Fred Hellerman, it seems like the song became known more through songbooks and summer camps and record albums.

As mentioned, the Almanacs or Woody probably did perform the song on radio shows, I've heard a verse or so by Woody on radio transcriptions. Don't know if that counts as recording. Its certainly not on any of the three Alamanacs 78 sets.

Both early versions are on a CD I produced for the Smithsonian, "This Land is Your Land"


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:34 PM

PS- see http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200000022/default.html


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Peace
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:37 PM

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200000022/default.html

[thank you, Peace-you beat me. JoeClone]


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:44 PM

Oh, gee...guess that's another CD I'll have to pick up. Thank you very much for the information, Jeff.

Oh, by that way - I'm still looking for a Woody Guthrie recording of "Deportee" - Joe Klein says he chanted it at concerts, but didn't really have a tune. Do you know of any such recording?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:50 PM

Joe- Woody never recorded it commercially. It was one of those "Mermaid Avenue" kinds of things, some lyrics. A school teacher named Martin Hoffman put the melody to it later. I am told that the Woody Guthrie Archives in nYC run by daughter Nora has it in a set of unreleased publisher's tapes. Woody was asked by his publisher TRO to sing into a borrowed tape deck a lot of his songs which had not been recorded. Micheal Smith at the WG Archives told me its in there. It could be a recitation, who knows. Doubt you could get a copy of it though.-JP


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 11:03 PM

Thanks, Jeff. I've been searching for years for that answer. I know about Martin Hoffman, but figured there just might be a Woody recording. NOW that you've confirmed the possibility, I have to make a trip to New York City.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 11:08 PM

Joe- Check with the first to see if they'll play the tape there could be preservation issues, as mentiond before the archivist is Michael Smith. You can get the phone number from the website.\-JP


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: DonMeixner
Date: 27 Aug 05 - 12:57 AM

Thanks Jeff,

Thats about as good a documentation as I can expect. I appreciate your help an awful lot.

Don


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Peace
Date: 27 Aug 05 - 01:13 AM

Article worth reading.

Two stanzas--one of 'em new to me--from TLiYL.


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 06:46 PM

I came on this old story linked to a current one on NPR...

Throughout the year 2000, NPR presented the stories behind 100 of the most important American musical works of the 20th century, across all styles and genres.

The Story Of Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land'
by NICK SPITZER, NPR
July 3, 2000

Some have called "This Land Is Your Land" an alternative national anthem. Others say it's a Marxist response to "God Bless America." It was written and first sung by Woody Guthrie. Over time, it's been sung by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Folklorist Nick Spitzer has the story of an American classic.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in 1912 in Okemah, Okla. He recorded "This Land Is Your Land" during a marathon April 1944 session in New York for Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records. Guthrie was on shore leave from the Merchant Marines, one of his many occupations during the Depression and war years.

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Guthrie heard church hymns, outlaw ballads, blues, fiddle tunes and popular music. The Guthries had been fairly prosperous — Woody's father was a small-time politician and businessman — but the family unraveled in the topsy-turvy oil economy of the '20s and '30s. The Guthrie family relocated to Pampa, Tex., after Woody's mother was committed to a mental institution for a mysterious nervous condition. That's when Woody took to the road.

As a boy, he'd already proven himself to be a gifted street entertainer — dancing, playing guitar and harmonica, making up songs as he went. Words and music became a growing passion for him.

Original Lyrics

"This Land Is Your Land" wasn't released by Folkways until 1951, but the song was originally written in February 1940, when Woody Guthrie first arrived in New York City from Oklahoma. Guthrie had a keen ear for the recordings of Virginia's Carter Family, and he was not afraid to borrow. A 1930 gospel recording, "When the World's on Fire," sung by the Carters, must have provided the tune for what would become "This Land Is Your Land."

Musician, activist and Guthrie's fellow traveler Pete Seeger has probably sung "This Land" more than anyone else. He says that Guthrie made good use of the popular melodies of the day.

"He tended to write words first, and later on picked out a tune," Seeger says. "Woody once said, 'When I'm writing a song and I get the words, I look around for some tune that has proved its popularity with the people.'"

Social Commentary

A man happier on the road than at home, he'd walked, hitched and ridden the rails all over the country. He went first to the Gulf Coast, then west to California, where he joined the half-million so-called Okies and Arkies — Dust Bowl refugees migrating in search of better lives. Although Guthrie purposefully threw himself into these travels partly to escape family troubles and his disintegrating first marriage, what he saw and experienced as he cris-crossed the country contributed to his emergence as a social commentator.

He was irritated by Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," sung by Kate Smith, which seemed to be endlessly playing on the radio in the late 1930s. So irritated, in fact, that he wrote this song as a retort, at first sarcastically calling it "God Blessed America for Me" before renaming it "This Land Is Your Land." Guthrie's original words to the song included this verse:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.'
But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

This verse was recorded by Moses Asch in 1944, but not released. In fact, Guthrie's recorded version was more or less lost until Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place heard the acetate master during a 1997 transfer of the recording to a digital format. Still, it was sung at rallies, around campfires and in progressive schools. It was these populist lyrics that had appealed to the political Left in America.

Radical Verses

Guthrie's folk-singing son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger have both made a point of singing the more radical verses to "This Land Is Your Land," also reviving another verse that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper now in the possession of daughter Nora's Woody Guthrie Archives.
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 God blessed America for me.

Nora Guthrie says she has an idea why these words may not have been recorded at the 1944 session — and why the 'private property' verse that was recorded was not issued. "This is the early '50s, and [U.S. Sen. Joseph] McCarthy's out there, and it was considered dangerous in many ways to record this kind of material," she says.

"If my dad had done the recording, I don't think it would have meant anything to him if he was imprisoned, actually," she says. "He was quite used to living without and having nights in prison and things like that. Like most of the things, if we're talking about my dad, it gets very complex here. So I think, you know, The Weavers originally just recorded the first three verses — which, in one way, was very, very helpful to my dad, because we had no money. So thank God that they recorded something, and our family was able to get some royalties from that."

Later in his life, Guthrie lost his ability to play guitar and sing, but he continued to write and inspire a younger generation of performers. Bob Dylan and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco — these are just some of the musicians who have followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie. When Guthrie recorded "This Land Is Your Land," he ended with this verse:
When the sun comes shining, then I was strolling,
With the wheat fields waving, the dust clouds rolling,
The voice come a-chanting, and the fog was lifting.
This land was made for you and me.

---

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: This Land Is Your Land (first recording?)
From: Newport Boy
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:33 AM

Guthrie's folk-singing son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger have both made a point of singing the more radical verses to "This Land Is Your Land," also reviving another verse that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper now in the possession of daughter Nora's Woody Guthrie Archives.

I think this gives a wrong impression. Woody's original words to God Blessed America, on a page from a loose-leaf notebook, are reproduced in Joe Klein's biography. The include both the 'private property' and 'bright sunny morning' verses - I've been singing them for 30 years. There's also a note, clearly in Woody's hand but at a later date, original copy of this song

Phil


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