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‘This Land’ is not his song: Woody Guthrie’s family rejects Josh Hawley’s use of lyrics

The family of the singer behind the classic tune, “This Land is Your Land” has a message for Sen. Josh Hawley: This song is not your song to “co-opt.”

The Missouri Republican referenced the 1940 folk music hit by Woody Guthrie last week when introducing the This Land is Our Land Act, S. 684, which would “ban Chinese corporations and individuals associated with the Chinese Communist Party from owning United States agricultural land.”

In a Monday statement to The Kansas City Star, Guthrie’s daughter said the late performer’s family rejected Hawley’s use of the song in legislation.

“In this particular case, the co-opting or parodying of the lyric by those not aligned with Woody’s lyrics — i.e. misrepresentation by autocrats, racists, white nationalists, anti-labor, insurrectionists, etc. — is not condoned,” Nora Guthrie said.

While saying she accepted “This Land is Your Land” being used for political purposes from time to time, Guthrie explained, “We do not consider Josh Hawley in any way a representative of Woody’s values therefore we would never endorse or approve of his reference to Woody’s lyrics.”

Her father’s song, Guthrie said, is “more of a vision of democracy.”

“The song simply reiterates the concept, ‘By the people, for the people,’” she said.

Woody Guthrie died in 1967.

Hawley spokeswoman Abigail Marone took a swipe at the Star when asked for comment, according to the paper, saying it’s “where journalism goes to die.”

The bill, Marone said, according to the publication, “protects America’s food chain, farmers, and national security — that’s the real story The Star should cover.”

It’s not the first time that “This Land is Your Land” has served as inspiration for a congressional bill’s title. In 2017, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 739, the This Land is Our Land Act, to prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from constructing a border wall on federal lands.

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