This Land Is Your Land
Release Date: November 4th, 1961
Words by: Adam Wilding
March 10th, 2012
Recorded live in late 1961 at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Dylan's cover of a song originally written by his hero and mentor Woody Guthrie, is a reminder of where America was placed at the time and somehow it still echoes a similiar sentiment fifty years on. Guthrie himself wrote the lyrics in the mid-forties, and put them to an existing traditional melody. The song, almost as famous as Dylan himself, has been covered by everyone from The Seekers to the Boss, and has even been used by Barack Obama as part of his 2008 Presidential campaign, demonstrating it's meaning and place in the fabric of American culture. Much like Waltzing Matilda is to an Australian audience… Maybe..? (footnote: Tom Waits 'Tom Traubert's Blues' is the best cover by anyone ever of Waltzing Matilda, off his 1976 album Small Change).
Dylan, accompanied by nothing but his voice, a guitar and a harmonica, treats the song with obvious reverence but still infuses it with his distinctive style. Sure, the guitar is out of tune and Dylan's voice arguably lacks the conviction and confidence he became famous for later on, but it's his rawness and honesty that carries everything so well – so much so that until the audience applauds you almost forget that it was a live take.
The lyrics have evolved over time to incorporate a number of themes of the American landscape and it's occupying people, but not many songs are as enduring, and this particular version stands as a reminder of humanity and of the American spirit, which Dylan has always managed to capture so poignantly.