In November of 1986, I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. The previous year I had seen Bruce Springsteen in concert on the Born in the USA tour and became one of the converted. So when it was announced that The Boss was releasing not one but 3 CD’s of live performances spanning the decade from 1975 to 1985, I had to use some of my food budget to get it.
The album was a treasure. It was wonderful hearing early versions of
Thunder Road and Fire (recorded here in San Francisco at Winterland),
but what was surprising to me was how often I went back to the 9th
track on the second CD.
What does this have to do with Woody Guthrie? Read on.
That track was Springsteen’s version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land. Bruce introduced the song like this.
“There is this book out right now it’s called ‘Woody Guthrie: A Life.’ It’s by this fella named Joe Klein and it’s really a great book. This song was originally written as an angry song. It was an answer to Irving Berlin who had just written ‘God Bless America,’ and this song was written as an answer to that song and it’s about one of the most beautiful songs ever written.”
I couldn’t stop playing that song. All of Springsteen’s songs were great, but something about This Land is Your Land just felt like it was part of this country’s core – or maybe it just seemed like that to a 19 year old Berkeley student. I still love that song.
Recently, I decided to take a crack at that song. It’s a shockingly easy one to play. If you can play the G, D and A7 chords you can play that song. And when you do, you will be playing about one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Give it a try.