This Land


With their satirical response to Irving Berlin and strident critique of American wealth inequality, the original handwritten lyrics to Guthrie’s best-known song are as surprising as they are revealing. The fourth and sixth verses are often left out of popular versions, but many musicians have restored those critical lines in their recordings and performances. In addition to celebrating the bountiful promise of America, the song was intended to speak to the injustices Guthrie witnessed as he traveled from “California to the New York island.” More than anything, Guthrie believed that “this land was made for you and me.”

“This Land Is Your Land”
Handwritten lyrics, February 23, 1940


Music: Opening verse of “This Land”

Arlo Guthrie: The first day of the school, before the classes, all of the kids got together with their teachers and they stood up to sing the national anthem, you know, and pledge of allegiance and they sang This Land Is Your Land and I was probably one of the only kids there that didn’t know the words. And that was very embarrassing and tough, so I went home and learned it right away. As a matter of fact, I remember the next opportunity that my dad was there, I made him sit me down and not only did he show me the words, but he gave me some verses that had not been written down or that were not published or popular and I kept them in my mind until years later when I played them for Pete Seeger and he said, “Oh yeah, I know those words”. (no trespassing verse – Arlo and Woody)