American Icons: This Land Is Your Land : Slideshow

Friday, October 01, 2010

Credit: Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940. The song’s success wasn’t certain in its early history; it was once called “communist” and “anti-American,” but it eventually became a sort of unofficial national anthem.

Credit: Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

Woody Guthrie, at left with guitar, and Pete Seeger, with banjo. Guthrie and Seeger met at a midnight benefit concert in New York when Guthrie was 29 and Seeger was 22.

Credit: Donna Lou Morgan, U.S. Navy

Pete Seeger leads the crowd in singing “This Land Is Your Land” at the celebration for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Credit: Walter Smalling, Courtesy of The Library of Congress

Woody Guthrie’s Birthplace in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma in October 1979. Guthrie was born into a middle-class family that fell on hard times during the Great Depression.

Credit: Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

The original, handwritten lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land,” dated February 23, 1940.

Credit: Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

Woody Guthrie’s daughter, Nora, says Woody originally wrote the line “God blessed America for me” as a parody of the Irving Berlin song, “God Bless America.” That lyric became the now-familiar “this land is made for you and me.”

Credit: Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

Woody Guthrie with his wife, Mary Guthrie, and children at the piano, in 1940. In his 1943 auobiography, Bound for Glory, they're left unmentioned.

Credit: Photograph by Lester Balog, Courtesy of The Woody Guthrie Archives. Used by permission.

Woody Guthrie, in 1943, with “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

Credit: John Carrico

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings reinterpreted “This Land Is Your Land” in a 2005 recording. Jones says she never paid much attention to the song when she first heard it, but found new meaning when she considered the lyrics.