Songs

When Bread and Roses started in 1969, I had a great burst of creativity and started putting new lyrics to old folk tunes. I even learned how to play the autoharp, though not very well. I have always believed that the most powerful and satisfying movements are ones that sing, and we certainly did.

THERE WAS A YOUNG WOMAN WHO SWALLOWED A LIE

(Tune: "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly" by Alan Mills)
 
I made up this song when I was in Bread and Roses, in 1970. It was recorded by Pete Seeger in his album “Banks of Marble,” and by Peter Alsop in “Asleep At the Helm.” It was published in Sing Out! in 1970 and in Peter Blood and Annie Patterson, eds., Rise Up Singing (1992)
 
There was a young woman who swallowed a lie
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed a rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the 1ie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed some fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
She swallowed the fluff to sweeten the rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the lie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed a line:
"I like 'em dumb, baby, you suit me fine."
She swallowed the line to go with the fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
She swallowed the fluff to sweeten the rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the lie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed a pill,
Prescribed by the doctor though it made her ill.
She swallowed the pill to go with the line,
"I like 'em dumb, baby, you suit me fine."
She swallowed the line to go with the fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
She swallowed the fluff to sweeten the rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the lie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed a ring,
Looked like a princess and felt like a thing.
She swallowed the ring to go with the pill
Prescribed by the doctor though it made her ill.
She swallowed the pill to go with the line,
"I like 'em dumb, baby, you suit me fine."
She swallowed the line to go with the fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
She swallowed the fluff to sweeten the rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the lie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
There was a young woman who swallowed some Spock:
"Stay at home, mother, take care of your flock!"
She swallowed the Spock to go with the ring,
Looked like a princess and felt like a thing.
She swallowed the ring to go with the pill
Prescribed by the doctor though it made her ill.
She swallowed the pill to go with the line,
"I like 'em dumb, baby, you suit me fine."
She swallowed the line to go with the fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
She swallowed the fluff to sweeten the rule:
"Live to serve men;" she learned it in school.
She swallowed the rule to hold up the lie.
We all know why she swallowed that lie.
Perhaps she'll die.
 
One day that young woman woke up and she said,
"I’ve swallowed so much that I wish I were dead!"
I swallowed it all; I swallowed the Spock:
"Stay at home, mother, take care of your flock!"
I swallowed the pill and swallowed the ring,
Looked like a princess and felt like a thing.
I swallowed the line and swallowed the fluff—
Lipstick and candy and powder and puff.
I swallowed the rule to hold up the lie—
Why in the world did I swallow that lie?
Perhaps I'll die!
 
She ran to her sisters; it wasn't too late.
To be liberated—regurgitate!
She threw up the Spock and ·-threw up.the 'ring,
Looked like a princess and felt like a thing.
She threw up the pill and she threw up the line,
"I like 'em dumb, baby, you suit me fine."
She threw up the fluff and she threw up the rule,
"Live to serve men;” she learned it in school.
And last but not least, she threw up the lie.
We all know why she threw up that lie.
SHE WILL NOT DIE!
 
 
 
THE BATTLE HYMN OF WOMEN
Tune: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 
 
I wrote this so we could sing it in our march for women’s freedom on International Women’s Day, March 8, 1970, the first time women had demonstrated on March 8 in Boston in many a year. The chorus, “Move on over or we’ll move on over you” is from a civil rights song by Len Chandler. This was recorded recently by Betsy Rose and is available at http://www.betsyrosemusic.org/
 
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the flame of women’s rage
Kept smoldering for centuries, now burning in this age.
We no longer will be prisoners in that same old gilded cage
That’s why we’re marching on.
 
CHORUS:
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
For women’s time has come!
 
You have told us to speak softly, to be gentle and to smile
Expected us to change ourselves with every passing style.
Said the only work for women was to clean and sweep and file
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
             CHORUS
 
It is we who’ve done your cooking, done your cleaning, kept your rules.
We gave birth to your children and we taught them in your schools.
We’ve kept the system running but we’re laying down our tools.
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
             CHORUS
 
You think that you can buy us off with crummy wedding rings
You never give us half the profit that our labor brings
Our anger eats into us, we’ll no longer bend to kings,
That’s why we’re marching on.
 
            CHORUS
 
We have broken through our shackles, now we sing a battle song
We march for liberation and we’re many thousands strong
We’ll build a new society, we’ve waited much too long,
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
            CHORUS
 
 
 
DARK AS THE GRAVE WHERE MY BEST FRIENDS ARE LAID
Tune: "Dark as a Dungeon," by Merle Travis.
 
I made up this song the night Nixon announced the US invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and sang it at a demonstration against the invasion a couple of days later, when a group of us from Bread and Roses made a speech. 
 
The monster is growing; it shadows the land,
With soldiers and bombers there at its right hand,
Its breath is a poison, its touch is unclean,
With wars and pollution it kills all that's green,
It speaks in a soft voice and tells us to wait,
It says we are little and its strength is great.
I know there is danger and I am afraid—
It's dark as the grave where my best friends are laid.
 
It roars in Cambodia; it's bloated with hate;
Its hand's on Vietnam, on Watts and Kent State;
In America, Asia, it's spreading its stain;
It starves us, it maims us, it gloats in our pain.
It seems much too mighty to ever crash down,
But it' s heavy and bloated; it can't touch the ground.
Oh, there's darkness and danger, and I am afraid—
My best friends are near me to give my heart aid.
 
Wherever the beast goes, there spring in its track
My sisters and brothers who rise to fight back;
They're united and angry, though little and poor,
And there's so many of them, they're winning the war!
I want to be like them, I need to breathe free;
I need to love them and to have them love me.
Though there's darkness and danger and I am afraid,
I will fight for the love that my best friends have made!
 
 
LOOK AT MY LIFE
Tune: “Banks of the Ohio”
 
I made this one up in Bread and Roses, too. We had a women’s dance in 1970 and the band played a rock and roll version—far out.
 
I was first a daughter,
And then a wife,
Belonging to somebody else
All of my life.
I never 1 earned
What I need to know,
And I started to die,
When I started to grow.
 
CHORUS:
Look at my life,
What have I done?
I learned to walk
But not to run.
I learned to walk,
But not to fly.
When they tied my wings,
I began to die.
 
            CHORUS
 
Look at the mirror
Upon the wall;
Is that a toy, girl,
Is that a doll?
Is there anybody
There behind the mask?
Oh, what's the answer?
Are you scared to ask?
 
            CHORUS
 
Oh, when I die
And go to hell,
They'll keep me doing things
I know how to do well.
I'll be cooking and scrubbing,
Standing by the sink.
Have to die at least twice
To get time to think.
 
            CHORUS
 
 
 
GOOD KING RICHARD
Tune: “Good King Wenceslas”
 
This song came out of one of Bread and Roses’s wackier ideas—we decided to make up Christmas carols about the Vietnam war and sing them in front of Filene’s and Jordan Marsh, the two big department stores in downtown Boston. December 1970 was the tenth anniversary of the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam so we threw that in, too, and passed out leaflets urging that the US go to Paris and negotiate a just peace with the NLF’s ambassador, Madame Binh. It’s anybody’s guess what the shoppers made of us but we had a great time.
 
Richard Nixon looked outside,
Saw some women stopping.
Said, "Why don't you go back home
Or do your Christmas shopping?"
"President," the women said,
We are celebrating
The birthday of the NLF
And we're demonstrating."
 
"Celebrating?" Nixon said,
"What have you to cheer for?
I will bomb them into dust
And give you much to fear for!”
"President," the women said,
"Better go to Paris.
Your bombs haven't won the war
And your threats can't scare us.”
 
"Madam Binh is very fair
And she's got a plan, sir,
To get your troops right out of there
So get out while you can sir!
We want liberation too,
And you'd better know, sir,
The more you use your bombers there,
The more our movement grows, sir!”
 
 
SENATE COMMITTEE BLUES
The tune for this is a variant of ''Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues.”
 
I made this up when the Senate Judiciary Committee, then headed by segregationist Senator Eastland, issued a subpoena calling The Old Mole, a movement paper in Boston, and Liberation News Service to testify on subversion. The Senator Dodd referred to was the father of the current Senator from Connecticut.
 
Senator Eastland—isn't he a pest?
The damned old fool won't give us no rest.
Been red-baiting for fifty years,
Trying to find a radical as big as his fears.
 
CHORUS:
I got the blues, I got the blues,
I got the Senate Committee blues.
Lcrdy, Lordy, testifying’s tough,
You take the Fifth Amendment
But it just ain't enough.
I got the blues, I got the blues,
I got the Senate Committee blues.
 
Just got a subpoena from Senator Dodd,
Crooked as a wishbone but he thinks he's God.
NBC bought a piece of his soul
But his price is too high for the poor Old Mole.
 
            CHORUS
 
Senate Committee must be scared, I guess,
Subpoenaing the Mole and the LNS.
Don't want to go to jail for contempt of court
But if they ask me any questions, I'll have to retort:
 
            CHORUS
 
 
THERE IS A FACTORY IN THE TOWN
Tune: “There is a Tavern in the Town.” 
 
This was written to sing on the picket lines in the big GE strike of 1970. One of the issues was equal pay for women and Bread and Roses did strike support. The workers liked the song but changed the words from “screw you” to “nuts to you,” when they sang it themselves.
 
There is a factory in the town, in the town,
Our union strike has shut it down, shut it down,
We walk the line as proud as we can be
Because we're gonna beat GE.
Fare-thee-well, you GE bosses,
You had better cut your losses,
‘Cause you cannot run your factories without us, us, us.
We're gonna hit you where it hurts, where it hurts.
We're gonna hit you in the purse, in the purse,
We want health care and cost-of-living, too,
And we'll stay out till you turn blue.
 
Those lousy bosses of GE’s, of GE’s,
Have put us workers in the squeeze, in the squeeze,
They blame inflation on us with a smirk
And take the profits while we do the work.
Fare-thee-well, you GE bosses,
You had better cut your losses,
Cause you cannot run your factories without us, us, us.
Screw you, old GE boss, screw you, screw you.
We will no longer slave for you, slave for you.
You tried to bust us up and it's a sin,
But we're together and we're gonna win!
 
 
WOMEN’S LIBERATION DIRTY SONG
Tune: “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.”
 
She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
When she comes.
She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
When she comes.
They’ve been saying since the Fall
That if she ever comes at all
She will be coming round the mountain when she comes.
 
Everybody always asks her, Did she come,
Did she come.
Everybody seems to ask her, Did she come,
Did she come.
Not a thing they’d need to mention
If they paid it more attention,
Still they always seem to ask her, Did she come.

 
 

Copyright © Meredith Tax 2010. All Rights Reserved.