OLD SOUTHERN TOWN (SARAH OGAN GUNNING) (1930s)

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While she was in New York, Sarah composed this song out of her feelings of loneliness for Kentucky. Yet it is a curious kind of nostalgia that sees heartaches and starvation, theft and exploitation in the mind's eye. Sarah calls this a true song; although it narrates no specific event, it does recall her childhood memory of farmers selling their land to coal companies for ten dollars per acre and subsequently going into debt to these same organisations.
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.

I'm thinkin' tonight of my old southern town
An' my loved ones that I left behind.
I know they are ragged an' hungry, too,
An' it sure does worry my mind.
Poor little chillun, so hungry an' cold,
The big mighty bosses so big an' so bold;
They stole all our land an' they stole all our coal --
We get starvation an' they get the gold.

I know how it feels to be lonesome,
An' I know how it feels to be blue.
I know how it is to be hungry
An' I've sure been ragged, too.
I'm thinkin' of brother an' sister
From the loved ones whom I had to part,
I'm thinkin' of their little children
Who is so near to my heart.

I'm thinkin' of heartaches an' starvation
That the bosses has caused me an' mine.
I'm thinkin' of friends an' neighbors
An' the loved ones that I left behind.
Now, if I had these rotten bosses
Where the bosses has got me,
What I wouldn't do to them rascals
Would be a shame to see.

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