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This is Millard Lampell's rewriting of "Beggar Joe," a sentimental ballad from the 1870s.
Lyrics as reprinted in Ronald D. Cohen & Dave Samuelson, liner notes for "Songs for Political Action," Bear Family Records BCD 15720 JL, 1996, p. 84.
The tune is a variant of "The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn."
ORIGINAL ISSUE: "SONGS FOR JOHN DOE" (ALMANAC RECORDS ALBUM 102), early May 1941
[PETE SEEGER, solo]
I'll sing you a song and it's not very long,
It's about a young man who never did wrong.
Suddenly he died one day
The reason why no one could say.
He was tall and long and his arms were strong
And this is the strange part of my song.
He was always well from foot to head
And then one day they found him dead.
They found him dead so I've been told
And his eyes were closed and his heart was cold.
Only one clue to why he died:
A bayonet sticking in his side.
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