I tell you, company bosses, I’m going to fight

Posted by | June 25, 2009

I Hate the Company Bosses

A Song by Sarah Ogan Gunning

I hate the company bosses
I’ll tell you the reason why
They cause me so much suffering
And my dearest friends to die

Oh yes, I guess you wonder
What they have done to me
I’m going to tell you, mister
My husband had T.B.

Brought on by hard work and low wages
And not enough to eat
Going naked and hungry
No shoes on his feet

I guess you’ll say he’s lazy
And did not want to work
But I must say you’re crazy
For work he did not shirk

My husband was a coal miner
He worked and risked his life
To try to support three children
Himself, his mother, and wife

I had a blue-eyed baby
The darling of my heart
But from my little darling
Her mother had to part

These mighty company bosses
They dress in jewels and silk
But my darling blue-eyed baby
She starved to death for milk

I had a darling mother
For her I often cry
But with them rotten conditions
My mother had to die

Well, what killed your mother
I heard these bosses say
Dead of hard work and starvation
My mother had to pay

Well, what killed your mother
Oh tell us, if you please
Excuse me, it was pellagra
That starvation disease

They call this the land of plenty
To them I guess it’s true
But that’s to the company bosses
Not workers like me and you

Well, what can I do about it
To these men of power and might
I tell you, company bosses
I’m going to fight, fight, fight

What can we do about it
To right this dreadful wrong
We’re all going to join the union
For the union makes us strong

“About 1939, Moe Asch-later the proprietor of Folkways Records-first heard Sarah sing this piece. He complimented her by commenting that it was the most radical composition he had ever heard in his life. It is sometimes sung and called “I Hate the Company Bosses,” but the original title was “I Hate the Capitalist System;” the song was recorded as such for the Library of Congress.

Sarah Ogan Gunning“Sarah thought of it as autobiographical-a response to the death of her loved ones-and not polemical. Although she stated to me that the music was made up out of her mind, it is clearly related to at least two tunes known in mountain tradition: a Carter Family melody for a broadside usually called The Sailor Boy (Laws K 12); a haunting air printed by Josiah Combs from his mother’s singing on Troublesome Creek, Knott County, Kentucky, about 1889 (On the Banks of that Lonely River in Folk-Songs from the Kentucky Highlands).”

—from notes written by Archie Green for the booklet that accompanies the recording “Sarah Ogan Gunning: ‘Girl of Constant Sorrow,’” Folk-Legacy 26, published in 1965 and still obtainable from Folk-Legacy Records.

appalachia appalachian+history coal+mining history+of+appalachia Sarah+Ogan+Gunning union+songs

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