Guest / Limited Access /
Woody Guthrie's God and Country
Woody Guthrie's God and Country

"This Land Is Your Land," Woody Guthrie's most famous song, has been sung by school children, scouts, church choirs, and war veterans. Its message of freedom and hope make it quintessential Woody. So does its undercurrent of protest and equality.

Woody Guthrie

Guthrie wrote the song in 1940 as an angry response to Irving Berlin's popular "God Bless America." If God blessed America, why were there so many poor and downtrodden people littered across its land, still reeling from the Great Depression and Dust Bowl devastation? His original handwritten lyric closed the song with "One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple / By the relief office I saw my people / As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if / God blessed America for me." Below the lyrics he wrote, "All you can write is what you see." (Read the complete lyrics here.)

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was simple and earthy, political and spiritual. His music was infused with God and country and the humanity in between, especially the downtrodden and oppressed. Those were Guthrie's people: the hobos and migrants and laborers and union organizers. The weather-worn Okie minstrel was one of them. He was their voice for justice and dignity in the 1930s and '40s.

He was also arguably the most important figure in American folk music. Pete Seeger? Guthrie was a mentor, collaborator and bandmate in The Almanacs during the '40s. Arlo Guthrie? Woody was his father. Bob Dylan? Guthrie was his hero. It was a pilgrimage to visit the seriously ill Guthrie that brought the 19-year-old Dylan to New York City—and Woody's circle of musician friends who helped open doors into the performance scene ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueNew & Noteworthy Books
Subscriber Access Only
New & Noteworthy Books
Compiled by Matt Reynolds
Current IssueThere’s No Crying on Social Media!
Subscriber Access Only
There’s No Crying on Social Media!
Young adults are desperate not to let peers see any signs of weakness or failure.
TrendingTrump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC
Trump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC
Prestonwood Baptist diverts denominational giving over concerns about Russell Moore’s ERLC.
Editor's PickWhy Africa Needed Its Own Study Bible
Why Africa Needed Its Own Study Bible
And why Americans might want one too.
Christianity Today
Woody Guthrie's God and Country
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.