So what can one say about what has been called the greatest American folk song ever written? Perhaps you could bring up the fact that the success of "This Land Is Your Land," Woody Guthrie's most famous composition, was drenched in an irony that made even the then-dying Guthrie wretch. Where as the song is frequently cited as patriotic gold and a possible new national anthem, many would be surprised to learn that "This Land Is Your Land" was written as a protest song and bitter parody of "God Bless America" (the original title and chorus was "God Blessed America for Me"). At a time when Irving Berlin's patriotic proclamation attempted to reassure an American public deeply affected by the Great Depression, Guthrie reportedly resented the idea of relying on the blessing of a higher power that had seemingly allowed the American people to be exploited and victimized by landowners and factory bosses. The song's final three verses, conveniently removed from the average music-class songbook, echo this theme. (The most famous of these forgotten verses proclaims: "there was a big high wall there/that tried to stop me/the sign was painted/said private property/but on the other side/it didn't say nothing/that side was made for you and me.") Though there are no actual recordings by Guthrie of the complete song (though a recording does exist with the "private property" verse), it is important for any musical scholar to note their existence -- it just might shed light on Guthrie's true intentions. This is a dead-serious, sorrow-filled protest song, a true crying out from a people that were suddenly beginning to question the validity of the American Dream. And while Guthrie's lyrics make no attempt to water down the unbearable hardship, he nonetheless concludes with a quite uncharacteristic twist of optimism ("nobody living can ever stop me/as I go walking/that freedom highway"). Thus, even as the song's character experiences wretched hardships and bitter poverty, he rises up and refuses to be defeated (quite a thematic difference from the glorified tolerance found in "God Bless America."). And though this "complete" version of the song may never be entered in any squeaky-clean Americana music books, it remains a true and bold reflection, a battle cry and tribute to the brave and dedicated Americans who retained their spirits during one of the most outrageously difficult times in U.S. history. Make no mistake -- "This Land Is Your Land" is the best song Woody Guthrie ever wrote. And that's saying something.