Mormons sing blacklisted song

 

Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings blacklisted song

(The video has hiccups but the spirit is there, so please go with the flow and enjoy)

By Carl Dow
Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective
 

It's no secret that the same words can fill hearts with either joy or anger.

Back in the 1950s the song This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land was blacklisted and banned from the airways in the United States.

Today it is a prominent selection of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra and was sung by thousands, including the president of the U.S. and his wife, at an open-air rally at Washington D.C. on the night of President Barack Obama's inauguration January 18 2009.

On June 27 of this year a Canadian version was delivered with joy and characteristic sophisticated gusto by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall. Jerry Gray, a dentist, and founder of the Canadian song group, The Travellers, was asked to conduct This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land as the final encore of the concert.

Jerry Gray, of Toronto, in 1954 was the co-writer of the Canadian version of the American song by Woody Guthrie. The Travellers at the time included Jerry Gray (banjo and lead singer) Sid Dolgoy (mando-cello) and singers Helen Gray, Jerry Goodis, and Oscar Ross.

Jerry Gray was prompted to write a Canadian version by Pete Seeger. Pete said that he and Woody Guthrie had been blacklisted and that they and the song itself were no longer allowed on air.

Pete suggested a Canadian version would help keep the song alive until the clouds were blown away. It took ten years before the hysterical right wing could be crowded out of control.

Here are the Canadian lyrics that Jerry Gray and his group wrote:

This land is your land, This land is my land,
From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters,
This land was made for you and me.
 
...and...
 
I roamed and I rambled,
And I followed my footsteps
To the fir-clad forests
Of our mighty mountains
And all around me
A voice was calling,
This land was made for you and me.

But even while Seeger and Guthrie were blacklisted the song was revived in the States by such as Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, and Trina Lopez who all recorded versions. 

Inspired by its political message, Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the song in 1962 for their Moving album. The Seekers recorded the song for their 1965 album, A World of Our Own. Bruce Springsteen released a live version of it on Live/1975-85, in which he called it "about one of the most beautiful songs ever written." Numerous records have been released since.

Dave Matthews has periodically sung the song's first verse as an outro while performing Don't Drink The Water. In 2007, Counting Crows released an acoustic version as a bonus track on August and Everything After. The funk/soul group Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings included their rendition on the 2005 record Naturally. Bruce Springsteen once again brought back the song in 2008 as set closer when performing acoustic concerts in support of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, this time adding a "Yes We Can" chant before and after the song.

The song was sung by Springsteen and Pete Seeger, accompanied by Seeger's grandson,  Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2009. The song was restored to the original lyrics (including the 'There was a big high wall there' and 'Nobody living can ever stop me' verses) for this performance (on Pete Seeger's request) with the exception of a change in the end of the 'Relief Office' verse to "As they stood hungry, I stood there whistling, This land was made for you and me." The original lyrics are "As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, Is this land made for you and me?"

The song is used during the introduction to the 2009 film Up in the Air, in a version sung by Sharon Jones.

In 2010, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, the surviving members of Peter, Paul and Mary, requested that the National Organization for Marriage stop using their recording of This Land is Your Land at their rallies, stating in a letter that the organization's philosophy was "directly contrary to the advocacy position" held by the group.

Arlo Guthrie tells a story in concerts on occasion, of his mother returning from a dance tour of China, and reporting around the Guthrie family dinner table that at one point in the tour she was serenaded by Chinese children singing the song. Arlo says Woody was incredulous: "The Chinese? Singing "This land is your land, this land in my land? From California to the New York island?"

Here are the original lyrics as written by Woody Guthrie in 1940.

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.
 
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
 
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
 
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
 
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.
 
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
 
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
 
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Now ain't that enough to curdle your milk?

(With files from Wikipedia and The Canadian Encyclopedia)

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