JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of “This Land” by singer/songwriter Drea Pizziconi. Taking her song’s foundation from the Woody Guthrie classic ‘This Land Is Your Land,” Pizziconi then uses it to examine what she calls “America’s other history.”
Besides Pizziconi on lead vocal, “This Land” features Ray Angry on piano and additional vocals, Dave Eggar on cello (he also wrote the string arrangements), Gabrielle Fink on violin, and Corcoran Holt on bass.
Pizziconi is a co-author of “Running (Refugee Song),” featuring Common and Gregory Porter, which Billboard named one of the top songs to inspire change in 2016. She also wrote the protest song “Circus Show,” featuring Gary Clark, Jr., on Keyon Harrold’s album The Mugician. More recently, she has collaborated with Maimouna Youssef (Mumu Fresh) on “Let Us Dance,” which received its live premiere at the New York CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education) gala honoring Annie Lennox in May. She will launch a program called Girls First Finance with CAMFED later this year.
About the song, Pizziconi offers these comments:
“‘This Land’ is a naked reflection on America’s other history – of Native American genocide, slavery, Jim Crow, and the subjugation of women and immigrants.
“Americans grew up listening to the popular folk song ‘This Land is Your Land’ by Woody Guthrie, which celebrated our country’s incredible natural beauty. But it wasn’t real. In the 1940s when that song was released, the statement ‘This land is your land’ only applied to white, straight men and their sons. For the rest of us—indigenous, non-white, non-straight, non-male—citizens, America and the promise of prosperity and freedom to manifest our best, which our founding fathers extolled, was simply too far removed from our lives. Those same groups of Americans didn’t really have a voice and barely had a vote, not to mention a prosperous career. Nearly 80 years later, economic inequality is worse than it has ever been. The notion of America and its greatest opportunities being ‘ours’ to enjoy fully still evades tens of millions of non-white, non-straight, non-male citizens because of the institutional, legal, and civic inequality that remains present today.
“A year ago, I was asked to perform Woody Guthrie’s version of the song at a show and I found myself bristling at the thought of spreading the notion that America is fair and accessible to all. So I responded saying I’d only perform the song if I could rewrite a different song of the same name that told America’s honest history. I never did do the show, as my own quiet protest. But I did record the song. So perhaps something very powerful ultimately came from that moment of protest, and now I can finally share it with the world. It is my own observation of what really went down in America and the questions we ought to ask ourselves today if we truly believe in making our country and our collective future better for all.”