Song of the day

In 1918, Irving Berlin wrote a song while serving in the Army, hoping to use for a revue that he was producing.  The song, God Bless America was put aside as he felt it did not fit in the revue.  In 1938, he decided that a “peace song” was needed in America and he revived it and Kate Smith sung it on her radio show.  The song was a smash hit and within a year was being played on the radio quite often.  Many felt it should become the National Anthem, replacing the Star-Spangled Banner which had only been our national anthem since 1931.

In 1940, a young songwriter named Woody Guthrie had heard this song one too many times on the radio.  He considered the lyrics unrealistic, and in response he wrote This Land is Your Land (and you thought that I was choosing God Bless America!)

Guthrie recorded the song in 1944 but it did not become well known until the 1960s when folk music blossomed.  Guthrie is one of the father’s of folk music and his songs inspired Pete Seeger and others to write songs about America, both what was good and what was bad.

I think that this one song is the quintessential folk song and perhaps more than any other became a sort of anthem to a generation unsure about its government and a song of hope for the future.  It has been covered by many people; so many in fact, that I would hesitate to call them covers.  Sure Guthrie did record the song, but it really was not well known until the folk music world took it as their own.  So I will just say that there are many versions of the song, and I am embedding a few different ones here.  Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s words about the song in the second clip.  As he says, it is the greatest song written about America.

Happy Fourth of July!


First is the original recording

Arlo Guthrie

Bruce Springstee’s concert version from the Born in the U.S.A. tour

Pete Seeger

Los Lobos and Gerry Garcia!

Johnny Cash

Peter, Paul & Mary

Many artists (from a PBS documentary)

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