POOR MINER'S FAREWELL (AUNT MOLLY JACKSON) (1932)

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Aunt Molly Jackson's 1932 variant of John Wallace Crawford's "Only A Miner Killed." John Greenway's rendition on "The Songs and Stories of Aunt Molly Jackson" (Folkways FH 5457; ca. Feb 1961) appears to be the most likely "model" for Bob Dylan's own "Only A Hobo."

A detailed history of this song family can be found in Archie Green, Only a Miner: Studies In Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, Urbana, IL, 1972, pp. 63-111.

Manfred Helfert

Upon Aunt Molly's arrival in New York from Kentucky in December, 1931, to agitate for her miner friends, she gravitated toward intellectuals, fo she was acutely conscious that her song lore could be used in the cause. Her earliest composition to impress listeners in the radical movement was "Miner's Hungry Ragged Blues," but the first to be transcribed for any songbook was "Poor Miner's Farewell." This printing in the Red Song Book held five stanzas and included music but did not name collector or transcriber [most likely Lan Adomian]. The item was identified by a footnote:
Aunt Mollie' [sic] Jackson is the wife of a miner of the Kentucky coal fields. This is one of the songs which she wrote at the time of the miners' strike in Kentucky early this year.

The Red Song Book was out of print by 1933.... To my knowledge, "Poor Miner's Farewell" was not printed again for two decades, nor did Alan Lomax or Mary Elizabeth Barnicle record it for Library of Congress deposit. However, during July, 1952, Aunt Molly sang a truncated version for John Greenway in Sacramento, California, which he used, prefaced by a short explanatory note, in American Folksongs of Protest. During 1961 Greenway himself recorded the song for Folkways.... Aunt Molly Jackson's 1932 text, when compared to Greenway's, illustrates either her memory lapses or her pruning of superfluous stanzas after the passage of time....

Archie Green, Only a Miner: Studies In Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, Urbana, IL, 1972, pp. 79-80.

Lyrics as printed in Red Song Book, Workers Library Publishers of New York, 1933, p. 24; reprinted Archie Green, Only a Miner: Studies In Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, Urbana, IL, 1972, p. 80.

Poor hard working miners, their troubles are great,
So often while mining they meet their sad fate.
Killed by some accident, there's no one can tell,
Their mining's all over, poor miners farewell!

Only a miner, killed under the ground,
Only a miner, but one more is gone.
Only a miner but one more is gone,
Leaving his wife and dear children alone.

They leave their dear wives and little ones, too,
To earn them a living as miners all do.
Killed by some accident, there's no one can tell,
Their mining's all over, poor miners farewell!

Leaving his children thrown out on the street,
Barefoot and ragged and nothing to eat,
Mother is jobless, my father is dead,
I am a poor orphan, begging for bread.

When I am in Kentucky so often I meet,
Poor coal miners' children out on the street.
"What are you doing?" to them I have said,
We are hungry, Aunt Molly, and we're begging for bread."

"Will you please help us to get something to eat?
We are ragged and hungry, thrown out on the street."
"Yes, I will help you," to them I have said,
"To beg food and clothing, I will help you to get bread."

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