Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Other Side Didn't Say Nothin'

Studs Terkel and John Leonard passed away too early to watch America swear in its first black president--whose house is all white--so it comes as a relief that Pete Seeger is still around (and wearing goofy hats) to enjoy and even participate in it. And the fact that his participation comes in the form of singing the full unexpurgated lyrics of what should be the national anthem is joy on another level entirely.

Because its easy to miss in the choral voices and poor sound quality of the video, here are the verses that occasionally go missing from the song:

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, It said "Private Property."
But on the other side, it didn't say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.

Its unabashed endorsement of socialism makes its dubious YouTube copyright status odd, to say the least. (John Hodgman explains, sort of, here.) And Guthrie's own attitude toward copyright makes HBO's actions especially shameful:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.

1 comment:

Kiersten said...

hey--is it just me or did pete seeger seem kinda uptight in that scorsese documentary about bob dylan? like maybe he doesn't understand artistry beyond political statement?? not that he's not cool. I have no idea if he's cool.