In our upcoming concert, Come Sit at the Welcome Table, the World House Choir will perform Woody Guthrie’s iconic folksong, “This Land Is Your Land.” Our arrangement is inspired by Sones de Mexico, a Chicago-based folk group that sings music of the Mexican diaspora. We will sing the choruses in both Spanish and English and ask the audience to join us.What are we to make of this well-known and much beloved song?
Written in 1940, Woody maintained he wrote it to counterbalance Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” When Guthrie grew tired of hearing Kate Smith sing “God Bless America” on the radio, he mockingly wrote and titled his new song “God Blessed America for Me.” He later renamed it, “This Land Is Your Land.” And the rest is history.
The World House Choir will not shy away from singing two of Woody’s less popular [and often censored] verses:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple,
By the relief office, I’ve seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
As the World House Choir prepares our Come Sit at the Welcome Table concerts, we want to remember that this land was made for you and me. And the you here means all of us, not just a few of us, but all of us living together on and in this beautiful land.
We sing “This Land is Your Land” in the spirit of inclusion and peace-filled interdependence, in the spirit of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free” and in the spirit of our national motto: “E Pluribus Unum” [from the many, one].
Here is the chorus to “This Land is Your Land” in English and Spanish as sung by Sones de Mexico:
This Land is your land
Esta tierra es tuya
This land is my land
Esta Tierra es mia
Desde el horizonte
To the New York island
Hasta la orta orilla
From the redwood forest
Desde las montanas
To the gulf stream waters
Costos rios y valles
This land was made for you and me
La tierra es para ti y para mi