This Land that I Love: Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the Story of Two American Anthems

John Shaw

February, 1940: After a decade of globally melancholy, global struggle II had began in Europe and Asia. With Germany at the march, and Japan at struggle with China, the worldwide trouble was once in a crescendo. America’s best songwriter, Irving Berlin, had captured the nation’s temper a bit greater than a yr ahead of together with his patriotic hymn, “God Bless America.”

Woody Guthrie was once having none of it. Near-starving and penniless, he used to be touring from Texas to big apple to make a brand new begin. As he eked his method around the kingdom via bus and by means of thumb, he couldn’t steer clear of Berlin’s tune. a few humans say that it was once while he was once freezing by means of the aspect of the line in a Pennsylvania storm from snow that he conceived of a rebuttal. it should surround the darkish realities of the airborne dirt and dust Bowl and nice melancholy, and it can commence with the traces: “This land is your land, this land is my land….”

In This Land That I Love, John Shaw writes the twin biography of those liked American songs. interpreting the lives in their authors, he reveals that Guthrie and Berlin had extra in universal than both may have guessed. even though Guthrie’s photo used to be outlined via train-hopping, Irving Berlin had additionally risen from homelessness, having labored his method up from the streets of recent York.

At a similar time, This Land That I Love sheds new mild on our patriotic musical background, from “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to Martin Luther King’s recitation from “My state ’Tis of Thee” at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. Delving into the deeper historical past of conflict songs, minstrelsy, ragtime, nation tune, folks track, and African American spirituals, Shaw finds a wealthy vein of half-forgotten musical traditions. by using archival study, he uncovers new information about the songs, together with a never-before-printed verse for “This Land Is Your Land.” the result's a desirable narrative that refracts and re-envisions America’s tumultuous background in the course of the prism of 2 unforgettable anthems.

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