god and country was {Re: Immortality...

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Fri Feb 19 10:09:11 PST 1999

rc-am wrote:

> our esteemed prime minister has just informed us that he will be
> writing the preamble that will go to the republic referenda later this
> year. this preamble will, he says, mention god...

I can't remember the exact source for the following anecdote, so I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it rings true of everything I know of Guthrie.

The story goes that he heard Berlin's "God Bless America" over the radio for the first time, went into a rage, and wrote "This land is your land" as a reply (flame as it were) to Berlin. Both he and the man who recorded his work (Moses Asch?) thought it would be extremely unpopular -- as it would be if the oafs who sing it at boy and girl scout camp knew what it meant.

Back in the early '70s when there was a brief flurry of attempts to make it the national anthem, I called into a local radio talk show when the announcer was burbling about it to tell him, "You know Guthrie was a communist, don't you?" His response: "Oh no, he was a patriot." My response: "That's what I mean.". Then later a local red baiter who had all the HUAC and Birch literature at her finger tips called in to assure the public that Guthrie (plus some other musicians including Bernstein) was indeed a secret communist. (Red baiters always have to pretend that their targets are *secret* communists.)


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