Show Hide image

Top 20 Political Songs: This Land is your Land | Woody Guthrie | 1940

"This machine kills fascists"

Without Woody Guthrie there would be no Bob Dylan, no Pete Seeger, and the civil rights movement would be bereft of its greatest anthems. Guthrie was a musician with an unrivalled empathy for the working class. His Bound for Glory, a dust bowl journey through depression-era America, is a vital precursor to Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Guthrie's guitars were adorned with the words "This machine kills fascists", and he sung with a knowing Everyman style that Dylan would channel to international acclaim. "This Land is your Land" was constructed in the folk tradition -- the words contributed by Guthrie imbue a traditional melody with a political message, creating a singalong that embodies Guthrie's socialist agenda:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

At Barack Obama's inauguration celebration, Bruce Springsteen invited Pete Seeger to the microphone to sing "This Land is your Land", which he called "perhaps the greatest song ever written about our home". The song is said to have been written in response to Irving Berlin's saccharine "God Bless America". Guthrie's anthem is a no less patriotic, but realistic depiction of American society before the Second World War.

Next: Free Nelson Mandela.

Back to list.


Listen to our entire Top 20