History's verdict appears to be with Berlin. I can't recall singing "This Land is Your Land, during a seventh inning stretch.
Habeeb writes about a verse of the song - often omitted although I have heard it a number of times - that is a direct attack on property rights.
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me,Pete Seeger - who has sung that verse for years - croaked it out with Bruce Springsteen at President Obama's inauguration. But that simply reinforces the notion that history has been unkind to Woody.
A great big sign there said, “private property”;
But on the back side, it didn’t say nothin’;
That side was made for you and me.
Today's tribunal of the proletariat, the aforementioned Boss, has a net worth of $ 200 million. You can be sure that the signs around his estate down the Jersey shore or 200 acre farm don't "say nothin'."
Whatever frisson the Boss got by singing Truth to Power apparently doesn't extend to off stage life. Woody's socialism has become something of a period piece - trotted out as nostalgia by people who couldn't imagine having to live by it. To quote the prophet, Bono, "don't believe in riches, but you should see where I live."
Of course, as recent history tells us, even discredited ideas can come back. This Land is Your Land is a catchy little sing along. It's animating philosophy is not a tune we can dance to.