DOWN ON THE PICKET LINE (SARAH OGAN GUNNING) (1930s)

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Many of Sarah's topical songs were general commentaries on hardship or exploitation and were composed after she reached New York; however, some were labor-radical songs with a specific time-place setting. "Down on the Picket Line" stems from the 1932 National Miners Union strike on the left fork of Straight Creek, Bell County where miners and their wives walked the coal-camp railroad track picket line. This is Sarah's first song; she composed it before she left Kentucky, when her own role as a trade union protagonist was vivid. She identified her melodic source as the widespread hymn "As I Went Down in the Valley to Pray."
Archie Green, liner notes for "Sarah Ogan Gunning -- A Girl of Constant Sorrow", Folk Legacy (1965)/Topic (GB) (1967).

Lyrics as recorded by Sarah Ogan Gunning, 1960s, transcribed by Manfred Helfert.

Come on, friends, an' let's go down,
Let's go down, let's go down,
Come on, friends, an' let's go down,
Down on the picket line.

As we went down on the picket line
To keep the scabs out of the mine,
Who's goin' to win the strike,
Come on an' we'll show you the way.

We went out one mornin' before daylight,
An' I was sure we'd have a fight,
But the scabs us carely [cowardly?] ran away,
We went back the very next day.

Come on, friends, an' let's go down,
Let's go down, let's go down,
Come on, friends, an' let's go down,
Down on the picket line.

As we went down on the picket line
To keep the scabs out of the mine,
Who's goin' to win the fight,
Come on an' we'll show you the way.

We all went out on the railroad track
To meet them scabs an' turn 'em back.
We went there strike, I'm glad to say,
Come on an' we'll show you the way.

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