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In This Land is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folksong, Backstreets associate editor Robert Santelli takes an in-depth look at Woody Guthrie's most famous composition, exploring the mythology and history surrounding the song that has been a touchstone for so many.
Bruce Springsteen first performed "This Land is Your Land" on The River tour after reading Joe Klein's Woody Guthrie: A Life, introducing it by citing its origin as a response to "God Bless America" and explaining that its intent was to explore the inequities of America's economic power structure. In an ironic foreshadowing of the misunderstanding and misappropriation of Bruce's "Born in the U.S.A.," the song has often been performed in abridged versions that de-emphasize its political content in favor of its poetic descriptions of the American landscape; Springsteen re-inserted one of several key verses in his live performances throughout 1980-81. Indeed, Guthrie himself worried that people would forget the "controversial" verses, and asked his son Arlo perform the complete version for him over and over again until he was satisfied that the budding musician had properly committed it to memory.
Santelli does a masterful job of placing "This Land is Your Land" in historical and sociological context, and readers will come away with a deeper understanding both of the song and of its brilliant, unforgettable composer.
Hardcover, 256 pages, illustrated with black & white photographs and a fold-out mini-poster of Woody and his "This Machine Kills Fascists" guitar