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NPR 4 THE DEAF: This Radio Was Made For U & Me

Artwork by DWIGHTYAOKAMFAN

  FRESH AIR: Lots of people know Woody Guthrie‘s classic 1940 ballad “This Land Is Your Land,” but the story behind the tune may not be as familiar. Guthrie, who would have turned 100 this week, wrote “This Land” as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” a song he felt was overly patriotic and not directed at ordinary Americans like himself. “He listened to the lyrics and thought that it didn’t really address his people — the Okies — and what was happening in their world. So as a response, he wrote a song called ‘God Blessed America’ in 1940,” Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place says. “And then it morphed a bit and changed.” The original version of “God Blessed America” included verses like:

As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,

That side was made for you and me.

“This Land” was later popularized by Pete Seeger, who was putting together a series of church and children’s concerts around the country. “Whenever he appeared, he played Woody Guthrie songs,” says Ed Cray, who wrote the Guthrie biography Ramblin’ Man. “And Pete introduced this song to most of the people who heard it.” “This Land” might be one of Guthrie’s best-known songs, but it wasn’t his only hit. Over the course of his career, he wrote hundreds of political songs, children’s tunes and ballads, including “Pastures of Plenty” and “Pretty Boy Floyd.”  On Thursday’s Fresh Air, Cray and Place, who co-produced the new box set Woody at 100, join Terry Gross for a conversation about the famous folk singer. MORE

  RADIO TIMES: The songs of Woody Guthrie are an essential part of the American songbook, and chronicle his times and their roiling politics, natural disasters and sweeping changes. From his early Dust Bowl ballads to his union songs to antiwar and war-effort supporting songs, from romantic odes to silly children’s songs, to his best-known work, America’s alternative national anthem, “This Land Is Your Land,” Guthrie’s work is celebrated and sung still. Saturday marks 100 years since he was born, and on today’s Radio Times, we look back on the folksinging troubador’s life, legend, legacy and music, with his daughter NORA GUTHRIE, co-founder of the Woody Guthrie Archive and president of his Foundation, who has dedicated the last two decades to spreading her father’s messages and music; and ROBERT SANTELLI, executive director of the Grammy Museum, and co-chairman of “Woody at 100” – a partnership between the Grammy Museum and the Woody Guthrie Archives producing numerous events celebrating Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday throughout 2012 across America and internationally. MORE

AMERICAN ROUTES: On this special edition of American Routes, we herald the 100th birthday of our nation’s greatest roving troubadour and social commentator, Woody Guthrie. We’ll visit with friends and relatives who share tales of Guthrie’s trials and triumphs, from Okemah, Oklahoma to Coney Island, New York. Guthrie’s children, Nora and Arlo, reflect on their father’s life, scholar Guy Logsdon discusses Guthrie’s Dust Bowl days and Pete Seeger shares the backstory to Woody’s anthem for the “down and outers.” Plus music and memories from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Moses Asch, Bob Dylan and so many others. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A With Nick Spitzer, Professor Of American Boogie & Host Of NPR’s American Routes

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