Woody Guthrie had composed "This Land Is Your Land" as a bitter parody of "God Bless America." It had originally closed with the stanza:
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief office I saw my people
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
These words and like notes of alienation were excised from "This Land Is Your
Land" when it was smoothed into the affirmative expression that soothes us
today. Guthrie accepted the amendment, but the pain of the sacrifice lingered so
long that, in the early 1960s, when he was near dying, he took his son, Arlo,
into the backyard and taught him the old verses, because, Klein tells us, "he
was afraid that if Arlo didn't learn them, they'd be forgotten."
Click here to read Kempton's entire article at the New York Review of Books.