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Week 13: "This Land is Your Land"

Daniel Barash

What do Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Trini Lopez, Bruce Springstein, and Peter, Paul and Mary all have in common? They’re all responsible for the soundtrack of our lives over the past weeks, for they’ve all recorded versions of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” The quick backstory: having sung a ukulele version of this amazing tune to Aviva since she was a baby, we subsequently began sharing an incredible picture book version by Kathy Jakobsen--the exact copy of which I had first gifted to my now 18 year-old niece Evelyn 16 years ago!

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but then Aviva got her hands on our iPad and quickly discovered that in addition to Woody Guthrie’s version, it’s been recorded by dozens of others, in countless styles. Over the past weeks, we’ve probably heard it 50 times per day, easily! She marches over to the iPad (this is the ONLY thing we let her use it for!) picks her version of choice, runs back to the living room floor, and dances away.

It didn’t take her long to zero in on her favorite version, by Peter, Paul and Mary. After the 100th listen, we implored her to try out some other PP&M songs, and she quickly fell head over heels with their entire library! Looking at the multitude of album covers on iTunes, she still enthusiastically points to each one and says, “There’s Mary!”

If there could indeed be a soundtrack for the “Challah it Forward” project, “This Land is Your Land” would be a mighty fine contender. For it’s such a powerful song, with such a universal and timely message. In addition to the first few summer camp verses that we all know, it’s the final verses that keep this song so very relevant:

As I went walking I saw a sign there,

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.” 

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, 

That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, 

By the relief office I seen my people; 

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,

Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me, 

As I go walking that freedom highway; 

Nobody living can ever make me turn back 

This land was made for you and me.

It is these lines that have been playing in the background as father and daughter combined, whisked, kneaded, shaped, egg-washed, and waited patiently for our challahs to rise in the hot oven each week. And it was these lines that we heard this week, as we were fortunate to have another baker in the kitchen, Nana Trudy, traveling all the way from Wisconsin with Zaide Lazer. In addition to walks around town, lunches out together, art projects galore, and nightly Hanukkah celebrations, Nana Trudy got up early on Wednesday to help us prepare challahs to deliver to guests of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project’s Annual Holiday Meal.

After dropping off two fresh loaves mid-morning, we spontaneously found ourselves strolling down Telegraph Avenue (in all its Berkeley-ness) and ended up at arguably the world’s best independent music store, Amoeba Music. After first educating Aviva about ancient artifacts like vinyl records and CD’s, we ended up in folk music, at the PP&M section, small as it was…staring out at us were TWO copies of “The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary, 10 (Ten) Years Together” an album that I vividly remember from when I was a child (only then it was contemporary music!).

Two copies of this classic CD...what to do? All we needed was one? After a moment of thought and some heartfelt laughter, we knew exactly what to do; buy one copy for ourselves, and “Peter, Paul, and Mary-it-Forward” the other copy to Aviva’s preschool. For it truly is this new generation that has to really listen to this music, be inspired by it, and then go out there and change the world.

Happy Holidays to all!