The Songs He Sang
Tom Joad: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
Woody GuthrieAppears on:
Tom Joad got out of that old McAlester Pen; There he got his parole. After four long years on a man-killing charge, Tom Joad come a-walkin' down the road, poor boy, Tom Joad come a-walkin' down the road. It was there he met a truck-driving man, Got himself a ride. Said, "I just got loose from that McAlester Pen, It was a charge called homicide, It was a charge called homicide." Well, that truck rolled away in a big cloud of dust; Tommy turned his face towards home. And he met Preacher Casey, and they had a little drink, And he found that his family they had gone, Well he found that his family they had gone. He found his daddy's old fashioned shoe, And he found his mother's hat. And he found little Muley and little Muley said, "We've been tractored out by the cats, Tom, We've been tractored out by the cats." Tom Joad walked down to the neighboring farm, He found his family. And he kissed hello to that mother that he loved And his mother said, "We've got to get away, Tom." His mother said, "We've got to get away." Well, the twelve of the Joads made a mighty heavy load; And Grandpa Joad he cried. And he picked up a handful of land in his hand, He said: "I'm stickin' with my farmin' till I die. He said "I'm stickin' with my farmin' till I die." They fed him coffee and spare ribs and soothing syrup; And Grandpa Joad he died. They buried Grandpa Joad by the side of the road, They buried Grandma on the California side, They buried Grandma on the California side. At the top of the mountains they looked to the west, And it looked like the promised land. That bright green valley with a water running down, There was work for every single hand, they thought, Work for every single hand. Then the Joads rolled down to a jungle camp, There they them cooked a stew. And the hungry little kids in the jungle camp Said: "We'd like to have some, too, Ma'am." "We'd like to have some, too." Well a deputy sheriff fired loose at a man, Shot a woman in the back. But before he could take his aim again, Well, Preacher Casey dropped him in his tracks, good boy, Preacher Casey dropped him in his tracks. Well they handcuffed Casey and they took him to jail; But then he got away. And he met Tom Joad by that old river bridge, And these few words he did say, Yes, these few words he did say. "I have preached for the Lord a mighty long time, I preached about the rich and the poor. But us workin' folks has gotta all get together, Or we ain't got a chance anymore. No we ain't got a chance anymore." Then the deputies come, and Tom and Casey run Down where the water run down. And the deputy thug hit Casey with his club, And he laid Preacher Casey on the ground, Yes he laid Preacher Casey on the ground. Tom Joad, he grabbed that deputy's club, He brought down on his head. Then Tommy took flight in the dark and rainy night, There was a preacher and a deputy lying dead, two men, A preacher and a deputy lying dead. Tom Joad run back to where his mother was asleep; He woke her up out of bed. And he kissed goodbye to the mother that he loved, He said what Preacher Casey said, Tom Joad, He said what Preacher Casey said. "Everybody must be just one big soul, It looks that a-way to me. So wherever you look, in the day or night, Weel that's where I'm a-gonna be, Ma, That's where I'm a-gonna be. Wherever little children are hungry and cry, Wherever people ain't free. And wherever men are a-fightin' for their rights, That's where I'm a-gonna be, Ma. That's where I'm a-gonna be."
Woody famously whacked the lyrics out in one night, fueled by cheap wine and wild indignation. Cisco makes the somewhat maudlin lyrics work, for he emphasizes the strength and righteousness, not the misery.