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This Land that I Love: Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the Story of Two American Anthems

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  75 ratings  ·  22 reviews
February, 1940: After a decade of worldwide depression, World War II had begun in Europe and Asia. With Germany on the march, and Japan at war with China, the global crisis was in a crescendo. America’s top songwriter, Irving Berlin, had captured the nation’s mood a little more than a year before with his patriotic hymn, “God Bless America.”

Woody Guthrie was having none of
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  75 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book a great deal. While I have no doubt that music nerds will like this book, it's definitely not just a book for music nerds. The prose is inviting and the stories are compelling.

I also learned lots of new stuff. For example, I knew very little about the life and times of Irving Berlin. What an interesting story so far. Who knew Berlin spent his adolescence as a Street Arab? As someone with Jewish roots, whose ancestors also came to the the US at the end of the 19th century fro
Michael Tarpinian
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Cool interplay between Irving Berlin and Woody Guthrie and their keystone National Anthems. American the Beautiful on the one hand and Guthrie's answer (initially satirical and in some versions socialist) This Land Is Your Land.

Berlin's song is reverent and Gurhrie's is secular and with the personification of the wind—pagan. the first is lovely and easier to sing than our official National Anthem and the other is more fun to sing.

A lot went into the history of both men and the history of Americ
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic and very well researched book. It would be interesting for music lovers, as well as those interested in Jewish or African-American culture, American history and more. It's dense in content so takes some time to get through but is well worth the effort. As I read it I keep thinking of all the people I would recommend it to.
Feb 25, 2014 added it
What a nice little book. The topic is small but big enough, the author tells lots of interesting anecdotes and provides lots of interesting details, and altogether the book is just right! A fast read, too.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Drawing connections between two historical figures, especially two who never met, is a dubious act on the part of any writer, regardless of how similar their lives or legacies may be. Earlier this year, Lynne Olson attempted to conflate a relationship between Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Roosevelt in order to personify the United States' conflicting emotions over isolationism; instead, she managed to write a book that was interesting in its own right but one that ultimately failed to link the ...more
Sally Sugarman
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This account of the writing of two songs celebrating the United States is informative and insightful. Although the two men had drastically different backgrounds, there was much that was similar in their evolution as song writers. Berlin was an immigrant who came to the United States when he was five years old as his family fled Russian progroms against the Jews. Guthrie was born in Oklahoma to a family that was stained by disease and violence on the part of his mother who was ill with Huntington ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, passionately researched. My husband and I present programs based on the history of American pop and folk songs and I can say that this one is an absolute gold mine of information. It covers much more than the background of the two titular songs and I wish Mr. Shaw would write more books--I'd certainly buy them!

(There is another John Shaw listed on Goodreads, a photographer, but this author and that one are two different people, even though this book is listed with the photog
P.e. lolo
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
This book is more than just about two men who wrote songs. The author not only gives you an over view of their lives but also a history lesson on music. The songs of our country from the Revolution thru the civil war, the war of 1812, world war one, world two and beyond. He goes into the back ground of songs and their makeup, the way they have change over the many years. The types of rhythms, or beats. How some songs started in churches, or your field songs, (slave songs) that is where the songs ...more
Nov 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This detailed and extremely well researched book tells the story of two unforgettable American anthems, God Bless America by Irving Berlin and This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie. Along the way it examines America’s musical heritage, from minstrelsy to country music, ragtime to spirituals, and everything in between and beyond. Both Berlin and Guthrie, although at first sight such different composers, had a lot in common. Berlin was a Russian émigré who rose from homelessness to wealth and fa ...more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
John Shaw masterfully entwines the lives of two songwriters (Irving Berlin and Woody Guthrie) and two of their most famous songs (God Bless America and This Land is Your Land) in This Land I Love. He explores a number of parallels in their lives in regard to poverty stricken early life, early success, etc. He also contrasts their differences in background, politics, and success in life.

However, not satisfied with entwining the songwriters, Shaw also compares the songs, looking into the textual
Kristi Richardson
Nice book on the writing of God Bless America and This Land is your Land. The author also delves into the history of other anthems including My Country tis of Thee and The Battle Hymn of the Republic as well as the Star Spangled Banner.

Gee, you can be a socialist, communist, lesbian and pedafile and still write patriotic songs and love our country. Just one of the lessons learned from this book.

Woody Guthrie hated everything Irving Berlin stood for and yet the two men were quite alike in their
Denise Morse
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very thorough and interesting analysis of not just two classic American songs ("God Bless America" and "This Land is Your Land") but also about American songs and race in the period between WWI and WWII. Both songwriters are discussed from birth to death- their lives, their careers and these songs. I did not always get how these two writers meshed together, they were very different and the book didn't always find the way to connect them. I am left wanting to learn more about Irving Berlin and hi ...more
Gene Bales
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Wonderful book looking at two popular national anthems in American life: Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, and Irving Berlin's God Bless America. Guthrie's song was negatively inspired by Berlin's, hence the pairing of the two. The book does not disappoint in dissecting the two songs and the two composers. But it also illustrates the complex history of American popular music in a patriotic vein. I recommend it very highly to anyone with an interest in American popular music.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent book chronicling the history, parallels and differences between God Bless America and This Land is Your Land, between Woody Guthrie and Irving Berlin, and between pre WWII America of Tin Pan Alley and the nascent country music scene. An interesting history of the era as well as of the musical influences on the song- this is a book about musical history as much a s US history.
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This work by musical philosopher John Shaw supplied evocative historical context in which the composers of "God Bless America" and "This Land Is My Land" wrote their timeless songs. His discussion of the history of the American popular song took me back to when I first learned these tunes way back in elementary school. The writing is thoughtful and joyful.
Rick Jones
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked it as an essay, but just when i would start getting interested in one topic, the author would be gone, onto another area. I would recommend finding a biography of either of these geniuses, and then making your own connections. A richer feel for the time would have been helpful.
Sara Diane
I got this from netGalley to preview.

I had high hopes for this one, as I've loved songs by both men. But it read more like a very dry senior thesis than an engaging story. I'd recommend it for scholars and music nerds, but the rest of us might want to just enjoy the music.
Definitely recommend. I wrote about the book for Slate:
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wish the that the book focused more on the two songs and not the entire history of American anthems and protest songs. With that said, I learned a lot.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really entertaining, wide-ranging joint biography of these two songs and their rich musical lineage. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in music, history, or American Studies.
Patrick Macke
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
it's a 5, a diamond in the rough ... Well conceived, 2 great Americans, 2 great songs ... what a country
Topher Shields
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Nov 18, 2013
Mary Rebekah
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Nov 18, 2013
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Feb 18, 2018
Suzanne Preston
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Jul 28, 2014
Eric Letendre
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Feb 13, 2017
Pierke Bosschieter
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Sep 21, 2015
rated it it was ok
Feb 13, 2018
Jade Foote
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Feb 12, 2017
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