3. Woodie Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land
What is it a response to? Irving Berlin - God Bless America
Known primarily as a cutesy folk standard sung in schools across America, This Land Is Your Land actually started out as a scathing critique of God Bless America. Irritated by the capitalist ideals of a country that seemed to relish economic disparity, Woodie Guthrie considered Irving Berlin's ode to be overly patriotic and unrealistic. And he hated that it was being played on the radio just about every time he turned it on. (Irving Berlin was apparently the Rihanna of his generation.)
Out of frustration, he began writing a sarcastic little number he called God Blessed America For Me. Guthrie picked Berlin's song apart almost line by line, and the original version of the song contained stinging indictments of a country too obsessed with its own majesty to pay any attention to its throngs of hungry and disenchanted people. There's also this verse that takes umbrage with Berlin's version of being "free":
"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me. The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.' But on the backside, it didn't say nothing. This land was made for you and me."
Over time - and as more versions were recorded by other musicians - the song was clipped and primped to be more palatable for the general public, removing almost any trace of the political undertones and pointed sarcasm of the original. But the next time you hear the words "this land is your land", feel free to picture a giant middle finger pointing toward the nearest American flag.