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Song Stories

“This Land Is Your Land”

Woody Guthrie | 1945

Schoolchildren consider this Woody Guthrie song a poetic tribute to America, like Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," yet, like that anthem, it has often been misunderstood. Written in response to Irving Berlin's jingoistic "God Bless America," the song challenges the notion of capitalism — though more subtly after blatantly Marxist lyrics were omitted. "My dad was bent on two directions at once," Arlo Guthrie wrote in Rolling Stone. "To escape the world and to change the world. I think all his songs deal with one or both of those subjects."

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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