House of Earth

Woody Guthrie
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House of Earth

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Ian Sansom writes:

To celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 a concert was held in Washington DC, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. ‘In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now,’ Obama said, truly, after will.i.am and Sheryl Crow had busked their way through Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’, with Herbie Hancock noodling on piano; and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC had pounded out ‘My Country, ’Tis of Thee’; and Garth Brooks had gurned through ‘American Pie’; and so on and so on. Perhaps the only truly radical note in the concert was struck – or at least attempted – by Pete Seeger, resplendent in plaid shirt and woolly hat, leading the crowd in America’s unofficial national anthem, ‘This Land Is Your Land’, including the infamous, often unsung verse suggesting that all property is theft:

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;
This land was made for you and me.

(LRB 9 May 2013)

Published by Fourth Estate Ltd
05 February 2013
Hardback
ISBN: 9780007509850

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