Woody Guthrie’s anthem “This Land is Your Land” has been covered by literally millions of performers over the past 52 years. Recorded in Gutherie’s last commercial session for Decca Records in 1952, the lyrics to the song have been rewritten so often and reworked to fit so many different nations, it is difficult to know which land the song was actually written for. For example, the Canadian version mentions “From Bonavista to the Vancouver Island” in place of “From the redwood forest to the New York island”. Up until this point, no one seemed to care, so long as the words were easy and the singers were having a good time.
Now, in the face of the extreme (and bizarre) polarization of the US electorate, the good folks at Jib Jab have released a South-Park like animation to the tune of Guthrie’s classic starring unreasonable facsimiles of Democratic nominee John Kerry and the current President George Bush. Kerry and Bush deride each other over perceived political and character flaws and are often depicted in degrading imagery such as the S&M gear worn by Kerry as he begs world leaders to trust the American administration again, or the dunce cap worn by Bush as Kerry lectures him on physics and the correct pronunciation of “Nuclear”.
Well, they say timing is everything in politics and, as timing would have it, the owners of the rights to Guthrie’s music, Ludlow Music has issued a cease and desist letter to Jib Jab’s lawyers demanding the animation be removed from the Internet immediately. Suddenly, the Jib Jab video has become one of the most popular diversions on the web. Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo Guthie was asked about the controversy the other day in an interview. Arlo, famous for the songs “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and “Coming into Los Angeles” said he enjoyed the cartoon and even referred friends and relatives to the site. “I think my dad would have absolutely loved the humour in it.” Perhaps you will too. Here is a link to the video.