Songwriter's Corner|

Photo: Woodie Guthrie | By Daniel Desrochers, Kansas City Star | Sen. Josh Hawley referenced Woody Guthrie last week when he sponsored a bill to prevent people associated with the Chinese Communist Party from owning U.S. farmland and called it the “This Land Is Our Land Act.”

But the family of one of America’s most revered folk singers wasn’t exactly thrilled.

Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, said it’s not uncommon for politicians to make use of “This Land Is Your Land” because the song advocates for democratic representation. She said she didn’t mind the song being used politically, as long as it aligns with the song’s values.

“In this particular case, the co-opting or parodying of the lyric by those not aligned with Woody’s lyrics – i.e. misrepresentation by autocrats, racists, white nationalists, anti-labor, insurrectionists, etc. – is not condoned,” Guthrie wrote in an email. “We do not consider Josh Hawley in any way a representative of Woody’s values therefore we would never endorse or approve of his reference to Woody’s lyrics.”

There are no legal protections for titles of songs being used or parodied and Guthrie noted that the same title was used for a 2019 bill to prevent the construction of a border wall. She said she believes the Guthrie’s song is nonpartisan and that it’s an anthem for the people, rather than for the government.

“It is more of a vision of democracy,” Guthrie said. “The song simply reiterates the concept, ‘By the people, for the people.’”
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Photo: Woodie Guthrie

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