Watch Bernie Sanders and Vampire Weekend Sing an Old Subversive Folk Song


Sen. Bernard Sanders’ (I-VT) last rally before the Iowa caucus was a giant concert. Underscoring his significant lead among younger voters, Sanders was supported by members of several popular rock acts in Iowa City on Saturday, including Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors and Foster The People.

But once the rally portion of the evening concluded, Sanders came back out to reprise his own unlikely musical past as a folk singer, joining in for “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, the sneakily subversive tune that has become a singalong standard in the decades since 1940. The day after the rally, Vampire Weekend visited Sanders’ Des Moines headquarters to hang out with staff and volunteers.

As Iowans prepare to caucus, polls show a very tight race between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. The final Quinnipiac Iowa poll released Monday shows Sanders with a 3-point lead, though previous polls have showed Clinton holding a similar or larger advantage.

In 1987, Sanders was the socialist mayor of Burlington, Vt., and Burlington music producer Tom Lockwood was looking for a new artist to record. This eventually turned into a complete folk album, “We Shall Overcome,” featuring then-Mayor Sanders delivering the lyrics of folk standards including “This Land” in an odd wooden yell.

Folk music has been a big part of the Sanders campaign. One of his highest-profile ads running in Iowa and other states features Simon Garfunkel’s “America.” But Sanders’ singing abilities have not exactly been placed front and center.

“If people are thinking of voting for me for my musical capabilities — not the right reason,” Sanders told NBC in January. “I have other attributes. Carrying a tune is not one of them.”

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