Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Woody Guthrie - "This Land Is Your Land" (spotlight)

Super Bowl LI (notice how we're back to Roman numerals?) looked like it would be a blow out, but then featured 25 unanswered points for an OT win, the first in Super Bowl history.  Lady Gaga did a great halftime show, and I'm not even a big fan of hers.  The right was busy congratulating themselves for Lady Gaga "not being political".  Perhaps the right-wing snowflakes were too hurt by, you know, beer commercials and such to notice, but Lady Gaga's performance was filled with left-wing dog whistles.

First, she's Lady Gaga, and she's singing LGBT anthems like "Born This Way", in front of Mike Pence et al.  That's only apolitical if you don't understand the words.  Second, in the opening patriotic, pre-recorded piece it was not an accident that she ended with "...with liberty and justice for all".  Third, she started with a snippet from "God Bless America", but then followed it with Woody Guthrie's response song, "This Land is Your Land".  That also wasn't an accident, and it invokes the history of the song, recorded in various versions, most often with the overtly political verses removed.  Here are the full lyrics of the song as written in 1940:
This land is your land this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I 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.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

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 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.
So yes, while Lady Gaga's show wasn't anti-anything, it was an appeal to our better angels.

"This Land is Your Land": Woody Guthrie (1944?), Bruce Springsteen (1985), Bruce Springsteen & Peter Seeger (2009)

Bonus link: full halftime show.

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