On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land (1944)
Back to the US today and to take in one of the nation’s most famous folk songs. Woody Guthrie is our host today and This Land is Your Land is the song. Its origins are most intriguing. Guthrie was said to have been tired of hearing God Bless America and set out to write an alternative song that could evoke the spirit of the nation.
This Land is Your Land follows a scenic narrative with Guthrie describing many of the wonders to be found in America. He sings of a “golden valley” and “diamond deserts” and takes us from the west to the east (“California to the New York Island”) and from west to south (“Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters”). Each image Guthrie gives us of America concludes with the same message that “This land was made for you and me.”
An earlier version of the song included one verse making reference to hunger in the US so there are questions whether it was more politically driven in its earliest incarnation. This 1944 version is one of gratitude for America and its many blessings in a rich and beautiful land. It’s a deeply evocative folk song and Guthrie would see his work reinterpreted and even parodied by many artists in the years to come.
Favourite song so far:
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit (1939)