I remember learning “This Land is Your Land” (well, a version of it) in elementary school. The details are hazy…could’ve been in music class or one of those “We all get to sit cross-legged on the gym floor and sing songs together” assemblies where the lyrics were shown on a giant pull-down screen via overhead projector. I’m talkin’ back in the early-90s.
We learned the Canadian lyrics as written by The Travellers (although we didn’t know that). The first verse is permanently etched into my memory.
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
We didn’t know we were singing a modified version of a famous American folk song that was written by Woody Guthrie. We didn’t know who Woody Guthrie was. We didn’t know the context of the original song or even what the original lyrics were. It didn’t matter. We were just kids singing a song about sharing the land. Kids understand the heart of the matter.
When I heard the Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings cover of “This Land is Your Land” on CBC radio a few weeks ago, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia for the innocence, simplicity and idealism of childhood. A time when sharing the land didn’t seem so damn complicated. I think we would all do well to tap into our child-selves every now and then.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings give “This Land is Your Land” an oh so soulful, funky twist. (Listen to how saucy those horns are!) I would eat their groove for breakfast if I could.
Put your big over-the-ear headphones on for this one.