Wednesday night, the building that houses the Environmental Protection Agency was officially renamed for Bill Clinton, in honor of what he and his administration (including vice president Al Gore and EPA administrator Carol Browner) accomplished during his two terms as president. Darryl Fears reports in the Washington Post that Clinton requested Woody Guthrie’s famous folk song “This Land is Your Land” be performed by a youth choir at the renaming ceremony. The song’s lyrics are very appropriate for such an occasion as they proclaim common ownership over the natural beauty of the USA.
Woody Guthrie playing guitar in 1943
Photo credit: New York World Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress
Guthrie was granted a Rosenwald fellowship in 1943 to create works in a variety of mediums. We previously reported on this blog about a recently rediscovered novel that was potentially written during his Rosenwald grant period. Although it was written in 1940, “This Land is Your Land” was first recorded in 1944, soon after Guthrie had received his Rosenwald fellowship. Although neither House of Earth (Guthrie’s novel) or “This Land is Your Land” were immediately heralded as masterpieces upon their release, today it’s clear that they’re among the best products of a Rosenwald fellowship.