Bernie Sanders Sings “This Land is Your Land” on the Endearingly Bad Spoken Word Album, We Shall Overcome

Sooo…. Let’s talk Bernie Sanders. No, I don’t want to talk about Bernie vs. Hillary, or vs. an increas­ing­ly wor­ri­some grand­stand­ing dem­a­gogue whose name I need not men­tion. I don’t want to talk Bernie vs. a younger civ­il rights activist groundswell… No!

Let’s talk about Bernie Sanders the record­ing artist.

Yeah, that’s right, Bernie made a record in 1987, a spo­ken-word album of clas­sic hip­py folk songs like “This Land is Your Land,” “Where Have All the Flow­ers Gone,” and—fittingly giv­en his roots as a civ­il rights campaigner—“We Shall Over­come,” also the title of the album. Sanders, a pas­sion­ate demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist and stal­wart advo­cate for eco­nom­ic jus­tice, was also so pas­sion­ate about this music that he want­ed to add his voice to the choir. “Appar­ent­ly,” writes Dan Joseph at MRCTV, “every­one in Sanders’ inner cir­cle thought the record­ing was a pret­ty good idea. That was until they real­ized that Sanders had no musi­cal tal­ent, what­so­ev­er.”

This is no exag­ger­a­tion. Gawk­er quotes Todd Lock­wood, a Burling­ton musi­cian who helped pro­duce the record: “As tal­ent­ed of a guy as he is, he has absolute­ly not one musi­cal bone in his body, and that became painful­ly obvi­ous from the get-go.” Hell, it nev­er stopped William Shat­ner, and Shat­ner is the go-to com­par­i­son for the Sanders’ awk­ward “singing.” (It’s “pos­i­tive­ly Shat­neresque,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds.) Hear for your­self above in the Sander-iza­tion of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Bernie earnest­ly reads the lyrics in his native Brook­lyn accent over a back­ing track that sounds like an out­take from the frus­trat­ing­ly great/terrible Leonard Cohen/Phil Spec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tion Death of a Ladies Man. The con­trast between the over­pro­duced music and Sanders’ heart­felt and com­plete­ly unmu­si­cal deliv­ery is pret­ty weird, to say the least. Hear sev­er­al more sam­ples above, from Todd Lockwood’s Sound­cloud. And if for some rea­son you want to lis­ten to the whole album, and pay for the plea­sure, buy Sanders’ We Shall Over­come at Ama­zon.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Allen Ginsberg’s Hand­writ­ten Poem For Bernie Sanders, “Burling­ton Snow” (1986)

Neil Young’s New Album, The Mon­san­to Years, Now Stream­ing Free Online (For a Lim­it­ed Time)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Greg Forrest Nelson says:

    Its just like his speech­es but with accom­pa­ni­ment, as a pro­fes­sion­al musi­cian in the live music capi­tol of the world I love this. I f*ing love Bernie

  • Bonnie says:

    So much less awful than the unflat­ter­ing descrip­tion led me to believe. Musi­cal tal­ent or the lack there­of are irrel­e­vant, since Bernie does not sing, but only recites. The only oth­er prob­lem with the recital appears to be that Bernie has accent, pre­sum­ably one that is dif­fer­ent from the review­ers. And the rather gener­ic musi­cal back­ground isn’t up to the review­er’s stan­dards.

  • Craig Purcell says:

    Won­der what Hillary was doing at the time …

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