Arts, Culture & Media

American Icons: This Land is Your Land

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This Land Is Your Land feature card

"This Land is Your Land" is the national anthem we actually know the words to. Americans sing it at school and summer camp; Bruce Springsteen and the late Pete Seeger sang it at President Obama's first inauguration. Yet Woody Guthrie's song was once branded anti-American, even Communist.

Pete Seeger tells Kurt Andersen how Guthrie wrote it as a satiric response to "God Bless America," and soul singer Sharon Jones explains what the song means to her as a descendant of slaves. Leftist, environmentalist, nationalist, or patriotic --- "This Land" allows everyone to sing it their way. We find out why some controversial lines about private property disappeared, and hear the song in Swedish, Hebrew, and Ojibwa.

(Originally aired October 1, 2010)

Video: Kurt Andersen visits Pete Seeger at his upstate New York home

Sharon Jones

Bonus Track:Sharon Jones on "This Land Is Your Land"
Soul singer Sharon Jones describes the special meaning the lyrics of "This Land Is Your Land" hold for her.

Bonus Track:"This Land Is Your Land," performed by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
The group performs its own interpretation of Guthrie's song.

Swedish folk singer Mikael Wiehe

Bonus Track: A Powerful Translation
Swedish folk singer Mikael Wiehe explains how translating and singing "This Land Is Your Land" inspired courage after he had received death threats from neo-Nazi groups.

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.

In Arts, Culture & MediaAmerican Icons.

Tagged: artsEd CrayEd ShannonJorge ArevalolifeMikael WiehemusicNora GuthriePete Seegerpop cultureSharon JonesShay TochnerSong WritingWoody Guthrie.