Pastures of Plenty

Album: This Land Is Your Land: Asch Recordings Volume 1 (1941)
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Songfacts®:

  • Guthrie wrote this after the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) hired him for a 30-day period to write songs about their projects, including the "Grand Coulee Dam." Guthrie was rarely paid to write songs, so this was very unusual, but resulted in some of his best work. Anna Canoni, who is Guthrie's granddaughter and a director at the Woody Guthrie Foundation, says of this song: "It was written about the Columbia River. And it's about migrants - it's all about the country. It's a very big song. It's very general in certain respects, and very specific in other respects. But it's all about traveling across the country, and it's about working the land and owning the land based on your work and your labor, not on money and paper. And it's a feeling, a sense of the wonderful feeling that you work this land and that you take pride in it, and therefore you will fight for it. It's not about, I own this property so I want to keep it. It's much deeper than that. It's a beautiful song." (Thanks to Anna Canoni for speaking with us about this song. Read more in her full interview. Learn much more at the official Woody Guthrie website.)
  • Guthrie performed this at a New Jersey concert in 1949 that was recorded using wire, which was a technique used in the late '40s and early '50s where audio was held onto a wire by magnet. This concert is Guthrie's only known recording where he performs to a live audience, and it was restored and released on the album The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949 in 2007. The album won a Grammy for Best Historical Recording.
  • Some of the artists to record this song include The Alarm, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Flatt & Scruggs, Holly Near and Pete Seeger.
  • The tune is based on the 18th-century English-language murder ballad "Pretty Polly."
  • In 1962, folk singer Peter Tevis recorded a version arranged by Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Two years later, Morricone adapted it for the opening credits of the Spaghetti Western A Fistful Of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood. Tevis also recorded lyrics for that version, but they weren't used in the film.

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