January 20, 2009

89-year-old Pete Seeger sings an uncensored ‘This Land is Your Land’ to 500,000 in Washington, pre-Obama Inauguration. Video.

Pete Seeger sings with his grandson, and with Bruce Springsteen and friends at the Lincoln Memorial.

Via the Tuscaloosa News:

Bee Branch – At the conclusion of today’s concert for president-elect Barack Obama 89-year-old Pete Seeger joined Bruce Springsteen for a sing-along with perhaps half a million people of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” which I dare say practically everyone in the country knows from childhood.


But sly old Pete, who actually hoboed with Woody during the Depression and Dust Bowl, had the crowd sing the song as it was actually written, as not only a celebration of this great land, but as a demand for workers’ and people’s rights. That is, he restored the verses that have been censored from the song over the years to make it less political:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me; 
Sign was painted, it said private property; 
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing; 
That side was made for you and me. 

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, 
By the relief office I seen my people; 
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking 
Is this land made for you and me? 

Nobody living can ever stop me, 
As I go walking that freedom highway; 
Nobody living can ever make me turn back 
This land was made for you and me.

    The “relief office,” of course, refers to the ad hoc soup bowls and such set up during the Depression before the New Deal began to get the social security net we have all depended upon since the 1930s in place.

    Seeger, like Guthrie, has been a controversial figure at times during his life, questioned by the witch hunting committees of Congress in the 1950s, black listed, and even banded from television as late as the late 1960s.

    But while he hasn’t got much of a voice left anymore and did not attempt to play his banjo today, it was wonderful to see the gleam in his subversive eye as he did his call and response with the throngs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Somewhere Woody – and Leadbelly, and Sonny and Cisco and the rest of the great balladeers of that bygone era – are smiling tonight.


    Full Lyrics

    This Land Is Your Land 
    Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

    This land is your land, this land is my land 
    From California, to the New York Island 
    From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters 
    This land was made for you and me

    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


    I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps 
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts 
    And all around me a voice was sounding 
    This land was made for you and me


    The sun comes shining as I was strolling 
    The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling 
    The fog was lifting a voice come chanting 
    This land was made for you and me


    As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there 
    And that sign said – no tress passin’ 
    But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin! 
    Now that side was made for you and me!


    In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple 
    Near the relief office – I see my people 
    And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’ 
    If this land’s still made for you and me.

    Chorus (2x)




With thanks to Jeff Waltcher, and Truth Out, for the heads up.


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