Pete Seeger and the subversive verses to ‘This Land is Your Land’

If you get to watch the HBO-owned video of the pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, don’t miss the performance near the end by Pete Seeger and his grandson, along with Bruce Springsteen and a giant choir, of the Woody Guthrie anthem “This Land is Your Land.” The verses that are usually sung are all the warm fuzzes about unity. But Guthrie had a lot more going on than that in this song that and Seeger knows it. I dunno if it was because of him that these two verses were sung, but I betcha he had something to do with it.

In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.


And this one which is actually an even lesser-known version of a similar verse:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

(In 2005, I did an interview with Pete, on the 50th anniversary of his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Recorded it all. You can read my stories and hear some of the audio here. Including Pete’s wonderful recipe for strawberry shortcake.)


  1. Denise Hamilton said

    While I listened to you sing “This Land”on Jan 18 2009, I can’t express all the feelings I had, I shed tears of joy, recognition, acceptance and satisfaction as I shared with you that momentous moment when you smiled … a smile I have never seen before.
    The song resonates memories of Martin Luther King Jr. and all those many more that went before and followed him and I thank you for being my voice and so many more of that time and evermore. A folk hero you are my friend.

    ,Thank you Pete

  2. Denise Hamilton said

    A friend since the 60’s ,,, love from a Canadian Mom

  3. Schuyler Wiersum said

    I would just like to tank Pete for everything he has done for us. In my life he has been example I would always look up to and always will with great love and deep thanks. I have been trying for a long time to find some form to contact him personally but seem not to be able. I hope this makes it to him.
    I first remeber you from the NewPaltz New York concert in I beleive it was 1962 at the middle school. We also saw you out on Cape Cod in several places. This might be something you would remember. You held A concert in Provence Town Cape Cod. My dad saw you outside as you were leaving, he ran after you yelling your name and dragging me at a very fast pace I beleive I was 5. He caught up you and started going on about how he was Dr Wiersum from New Paltz and was very happy to meet you. You stopped him in his tracks by saying” Nice to meet you how is your son doing?” you watch as he approached you.
    I am a life time fan my mom was the childrens libraian the New Paltz Library and she adored you and what you stand and your beliefs. She still doe’s.
    As I told you you hold a very dear spot in my heart there is so much to say, but I know there are so many you must hear from. My mom was able to get you to sign your story telling book which I love. I am attempting to learn Banjo. I just want you and Toshi to know with great love you both have my heart felt thanks. Thank you for touching my life.

  4. Frank J. Leone said

    Seeing you sing “This land” on 01/18/2009 brought back many wonderful memories of my grandparents (John & Ethel Belknap) and mother (Ellen E. Belknap). Growing up they instilled in me a great love of your music and message. It warmed my heart in a way I have not felt in years.

    Thank you


  5. Yves Tripon said

    Merci Pete,
    Quand je t’ai entendu chanter à Washington, j’ai à nouveau aimé l’Amérique, ton Amérique, celle des gens ordinaires, semblables à tous les autres gens ordinaires du monde entier, et non celle de l’empire.
    Villejuif, France.

  6. Frank said

    Hearing that song reminded me that it’s ok to be proud ….I mean really proud…to be an American. It’s been a long time since I had that feeling. Thanks pete !

    Frank R.

  7. Clyde James Jr. said

    I remember 1968 and the blood and tears while This Land is My Land was being sung at the Dem Convention and the war protesters’ heads were being cracked inside and outside [in Grant Park].
    They say we should get past 1968 = well we did. Bobby won after all. Nixon, Reagan and Bush never happened.
    el chicote

  8. Mark Bates said

    Hi Pete,

    I was listening to the Lincoln Memorial concert on the radio as I rode the train from Boston to Washington on that Sunday. I cried when I heard you come out and play. I can’t exactly say why. It was a beautiful moment and I was glad you were there to sing those words.

    Mark Bates
    Somerville, Mass.

  9. Sue Zimmerman said

    ….in the past……I have been proud of “this land”…my country, but I have been so ashamed of this country for the past eight years….I certainly did NOT want to call it MY LAND……but when I saw you, Pete, and Bruce sing that song at the Lincoln Memorial…..I am totally embracing MY country once again….. and finally, again, I am proud to be an American….(but I never, ever, want to hear that “song” again……for obvious reasons….when it was getting air play….I was totally ashamed to be an American….every time “he” opened his mouth, I was ashamed….)….

    OK…two other things I want to comment on….

    when I visited at Christmas…..I noticed my beautiful (of course) two year old (almost three) granddaughter singing “This Land…” so I thought….”Wow, that’s great….she knows the course….I’ll teach her the verses….then when she finished the course and begin the first verse, I realized….she know the whole thing…..Great parenting…..

    and the second comment:…..this CD: Pete Seeger “AT 89” just totally blew me away….I so love the narratives…..and the songs just keep going through my mind….you know, after ONE time, and these songs just can’t leave me alone….just totally stay with me…..I could sing several of them to you at this time….although, it’s much better hearing Pete sing them….go to Amazon, and buy the CD….

    Thanks, Pete…you are a national treasure……keep singing to us….and keep making us think….

    love you much….Sue

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