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Social Justice Songs: Traditional and Contemporary

Circle Round

Linda Hirschhorn      Download printable version (revised 1/20/12)

Circle round for freedom,
Circle round for peace
For all of us imprisoned,
Circle for release
Circle for the planet,
Circle for each soul
For the children of our children,
Keep the circle whole

De Colores

(Traditional- Mexican Folk Song)
Download printable version (revised 7/12/19)

De colores, do colores se visten los campos en la primavera.
De colores, de colores son los pajaritos que vienen de afuera.
De colores, de colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi (2x)

Canta el gallo, canta el gallo con el kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri,
La gallina, la gallina con el kara kara kara kara kara,
Los polluelos, los polluelos con el pio pio pio pio pio
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi (2x)

Si se puede
Si se puede, it means "Yes we can", we can do it together
Si Se puede, in the in the fields, in the streets,
we stand up for ourselves, and it's better
Si se puede
The union, the struggle, the people, the eagle that flies
Cesar Chavez gave his days and nights to turn wrong into right
In my way so do I! (2x)

Diggers Song (The World Turned Upside Down)

Leon Rosselson        Download printable version (revised 5/17/12)

In 1649 to St. George's Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

"We come in peace" they said, "to dig and sow"
We come to work the lands in common and to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided we will make whole
So it will be a common treasury for all

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command

They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell
We will not worship the God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich while poor folk starve

We work we eat together we need no swords
We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory, stand up now!

From the men of property the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed but still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage, you rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
We come in peace – the orders came to cut them down

(Repeat italicized verse)

Family of Woman and Man

(George Fouke; disability verse by Nina Fendel)  
Download printable version (revised 1/17/12)

Some of us were born near the north and south pole
where the low temperatures are mean
Others appeared in more moderate zones somewhere in between
But wherever you happened to squeeze out, whatever the name of that land
All of us are members of the family of woman & man

All of us are members, all of us are members, all of us are members of the family
And we bid you to remember as you carry out your plan
All of us are members of the family of woman & man

Some are the color of peaches & cream, some of pumpkin pie
Some are the color of banana nut bread & some of Russian rye
But whatever color you happen to be, it's plain as the back of your hand
All of us are members of the family of woman & man
Some of us are shaped like cucumbers, some are shaped like pears
Some are smooth as dolphins and eels & some are hairy as bears
But whatever your shaper or your texture, whatever your cosmetic plan
All of us are members of the family of woman & man

All of us are members, all of us are members, all of us are members of the family
And we bid you to remember as you carry out your plan
All of us are members of the family of woman & man

Some of us listen with our ears, others watch hands or lips
Some of us read with our eyes & some with our fingertips
Some of us get around in wheelchairs, use walkers or canes to stand, and
All of us are members of the family of woman & man

Some take lovers of the opposite sex, some prefer their own kind
Some say variety's the spice of life & some can't make up their mind
But whatever your orientation, whatever your libido demands
All of us are members of the family of woman & man (Chorus/Instrumental)

Now there are those among us who are dangerous, that's for sure
To protect their privileges, they would drag us into war
But the family will rise above them, and strip them of their power
And guarantee the future against that midnight hour

CHORUS/ All of us are members of the family of woman and man.

Garden Song

©1975 by David Mallett        Download printable version (revised 1/17/12)

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
'Till the rain comes tumbling down

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We are made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow a my own
For the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care
Old crow watchin' from a tree.
Got his hungry eye on me.
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.

Hard Times

Stephen Foster       Download printable version (revised 7/13/19)

Let us pause in life’s pleasures & count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears
O, Hard Times, come again no more

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard Times, Hard Times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
O, Hard Times, come again no more

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er
Tho' her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
O, Hard Times, come again no more (Chorus)

‘Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
‘Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
‘Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave,
O, Hard Times, come again no more (Chorus)

While we seek mirth & beauty & music bright & gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Tho’ their voices are silent, their pleading looks still say,
O, Hard Times, come again no more (Chorus)

Have You Been to Jail for Justice?

Anne Feeney      Download printable version (created 4/29/14)

Was it Cesar Chavez? Maybe it was Dorothy Day
Some will say Dr. King or Gandhi set them on their way
No matter who your mentors are it's pretty plain to see
That if you've been to jail for justice, you're in good company

Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand
Cause sitting in and lyin' down are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom? or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice? Then you're a friend of mine

You law abiding citizens, come listen to this song
Laws were made by people, and people can be wrong
Once unions were against the law, but slavery was fine
Women were denied the vote and children worked the mine
The more you study history the less you can deny it
A rotten law stays on the books til folks like us defy it (Chorus)

The law's supposed to serve us, and so are the police
And when the system fails, it's up to us to speak our peace
It takes eternal vigilance for justice to prevail
So get courage from your convictions
Let them haul you off to jail! (Chorus)

Hold On (Keep your Eyes on the Prize)

(from Trad. Keep Your Hand on the Plow)  
Download printable version (revised 7/13/19)

Paul & Silas were bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Hold on, hold on!
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!

Paul & Silas began to shout
The jail doors opened & they walked out/Keep…

The only thing that we did wrong
Was stayin’ in the wilderness too long/Keep…

Ain’t but one chain that we can stand
That’s the chain of a hand in hand/Keep…

Freedom’s name is mighty sweet
Black & white are gonna meet/Keep…

We’ve fought jail & violence too
And our love has seen us through/Keep…

Got my hand on the freedom plow
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now/Keep…

Hold the Fort

Download printable version (revised 1/18/12)

We meet today in freedom's cause
And raise our voices high
We'll join our hands in union strong
To battle or to die

Hold the fort, for we are coming,
Union folk be strong
Side by side we battle onward
Victory will come

Look, my comrades, see the union
Banners waving high
Reinforcements now appearing
Victory is nigh


See our numbers still increasing
Hear the bugles blow
By our union we shall triumph
Over every foe

I Don't Want your Millions Mister

(Written by Jim Garland for the Almanac Singers)
Download printable version (revised 1/9/12)

I don't want your millions, Mister,
I don't want your diamond ring.
All I want is the right to live, Mister,
Give me back my job again.

Now, I don't want your Rolls-Royce, Mister,
I don't want your pleasure yacht.
All I want's just food for my babies,
Give to me my old job back.

We worked to build this country, Mister,
While you enjoyed a life of ease.
You've stolen all that we built, Mister,
Now our children starve and freeze. (CHORUS)

Think me dumb if you wish, Mister,
Call me green, or blue, or red.
This one thing I sure know, Mister,
My hungry babies must be fed.

Take the two old parties, Mister,
No difference in them I can see.
But with a Farmer-Labor Party We could set the people free.

So, CHORUS Give me back my job again.

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

Simon and Garfunkel
Download printable version (revised 1/17/12)

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
All filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
We'd never fight again.

And when the paper all was signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

The Money Crop

Words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1966 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1994.   Download printable version (created 3/11/12)

Well, money has its own way,
And money has to grow.
It grows on human blood and bone,
As any child would know.
It's iron stuff and paper stuff
With no life of its own,
And so it takes its growing sap
From human blood and bone.

And many a child goes hungering
Because the wage is low,
And men die on the battlefield
To make the money grow.
And those that take the money crop
Are avid without end,
They plant it in the tenements
To make it grow again.

The little that they leave for us,
It cannot be a seed.
We spend it for the shoddy clothes
And every daily need.
We spend it in a minute,
In an hour it is gone,
To find its way to grow again
On human blood and bone,
Blood and bone.

Paz Y Libertad

Jose-Luis Orozco     Download printable version (revised 1/9/12)

Paz, queremos paz
Y libertad en este mundo (sing twice)

Para los ni~nos de todo el mundo
Queremos paz y libertad (2x)

Paz, queremos paz...

Ya no mas hambre ya no mas guerra,
queremos paz y libertad (2x)

Paz, queremos paz..
Para los pobres y los ancianos,
queremos paz y libertad (2x)

Paz, queremos paz...

Preacher & the Slave (Pie in the Sky)

(music "Sweet bye & Bye", words by Joe Hill)
Download printable version (revised 5/21/12)

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what's wrong & what's right
But when asked, "How 'bout something to eat?"
They will answer in voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye & bye,
In that glorious land above the sky (Way up high!)
Work & pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die (That's a lie!)

O the Starvation Army they play
& they sing & they clap & they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum

If you fight hard for children & wife
Try to get something good in this life
You're a sinner & bad man, they tell
When you die you will sure go to Hell

Holy Rollers & Jumpers come out
And they holler, they jump & they shout
"Give your money to Jesus" they say
"He will cure all diseases today"

Workingfolk of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world & its wealth we have gained
To the grafter we sing this refrain:

You will eat bye & bye, When you learn how to cook & to fry
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good
And you'll eat in the sweet bye & bye (that's no lie!)

Solidarity Forever

Ralph Chaplin        Download printable version (created 5/29/14)

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops,
endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders
we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.

Song of Peace (Finlandia)

Music by Jean Sibelius (1899) / Words by Lloyd Stone (1934)
Download printable version (revised 11/26/16)

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes my dreams my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine
But other lands have sunshine too, and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
O hear my song thou God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

Step by Step

Words: American Miners Union circa 1860. Traditional Irish melody.
Download printable version (revised 11/26/16)

Step by step the longest march
Can be won, can be won,
Many stones can form an arch,
Singly none, singly none,
And by union what we will
Can be accomplished still,
Drops of water turn the mill,
Singly none, singly none.

The Times they are A-Changing

Bob Dylan        Download printable version (revised 1/18/12)

Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, For the times. . .

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand, For the times . . .

The line it is drawn; the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now  will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now will later be last,  For the times . . .

This Land Is Your Land

Woody Guthrie with additional verses by Hali Hammer and Leslie Hassberg       Download printable version (revised 5/20/12)

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
this land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you & me

Is this still your land? Is this still my land?
From the Gulf disaster to 3 Mile Island,
From clear cut forests to deep pit mining,
Is this land still made for you and me? (Leslie Hassberg)

Esta tierra es tuya, esta tierra es mía
Desde California hasta Nueva York;
Desde los bosques, hasta los mares (maaaares)
Esta tierra es tuya y mía también.

We join together across this nation,
Stand side by side for our Occupations,
To tax the rich and the corporations
So we can sustain democracy. (Hali Hammer)

To keep the air clean & the rivers flowing
And the redwoods standing, & the planet going
So all the children can grow up knowing
That this land's still made for you & me! (Hali Hammer)

This Land is Your Land (Esta Es Tu Tierra)

Download printable version (revised 1/17/12)

Esta es tu tierra, esta es mi tierra
desde California hasta Nueva York.
Desde los bosques, hasta llos mares
esta tierra es tuya y mia tambien.

Cuando andaba por los caminos
vi alla en lo alto un cielo immenso
y mas abajo un valle extenso
esta tierra es tuya y mia tambien

Esta es tu tierra....

Por los caminos vi un letrero
que me decia: Aqui no pasas!
pero del otro lado, nada decia
Ese lado es tuyo y mio tambien...

Esta es tu tierra...

We Who Believe in Freedom (Ella's Song)

by Bernice Johnson Reagon 
Download printable version (revised 7/14/19)

We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, black mothers’ sons,
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.

That which touches me most is the chance to work with people,
Passing on to others, that which was passed on to me.

To me young people come first,
They have the courage where we fail,
And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale

The older I get, the better I know that the secret of my going on,
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young who dare
To run against the storm.

Not needing to clutch for power,
Not needing the light just to shine on me!
I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny

I'm a woman who speaks in a voice
And I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man's word

Which Side Are You On?

Florence Reece        Download printable version (revised 7/14/19)

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Come all you good people, good news to you I'll tell
How the Miner's Union has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there
You're either for the union or a thug for J.H. Blair

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Don't scab for the bosses, don't listen to their lies
People haven't got a chance unless they organize

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

You don't want your husband to die in the coal mine
I'll see you in the morning out on the picket line

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

You Can Get It if You Really Want

Jimmy Cliff       Download printable version (revised 1/19/12)

You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
But you must try, try and try
Try and try
You'll succeed at last

Persecution you must bear
Win or lose you got to get your share
Got your mind set on a dream
You can get it, tho hard it may seem

You can get it if you really want…

Rome was not built in a day
Opposition will come your way
But the harder the battle you see
It's the sweeter the victory

You can get it if you really want…