The Ballad of Tom Joad

Woody Guthrie (1940)

Tom Joad got out of that old McAlester pen
Was there that he got his parole
After four long years on a man-killin’ charge
Tom Joad came walkin’ down the road, Poor boy
Tom Joad came walkin’ down the road

It was there that he found him a truck-drivin’ man
It was there that he caught him a ride
He said I just got loose from McAlester pen
On a charge call homicide, great god
A charge called homicide

The truck rolled away in a big cloud of dust
And Tommy turned his face towards home
He met Preacher Casy and they had a little drink
He found out his family they was goin’, Tom Joad
He found out his family they was goin’

He found his mother’s old-fashioned shoes,
he found his daddy’s hat
He found little Muley and little Muley said
They been tractored out by the Cats, Tom
They been tractored out by the Cats

And Tom he walked to the neighboring farm
He found his family
They took Preacher Casy and they loaded in the car
And his Mama said, we got to get away, Tom
His Mama said, we got to get away

The twelve of the Joads made a mighty heavy load
And Grandpa Joad he cried
He picked up a handful of land in his hand
He said, I’m stickin with my farm till I die He said,
I’m stickin with my farm till I die

They fed him spareribs and coffee and soup and syrup
And Grandpa Joad he died
We buried Grandpa Joad on the Oklahoma road
And Grandma on the California side,
And Grandma on the California side

We stood on a mountain and we looked to the west
It looked like the promised land
Was a big green valley with a river running through
And there was work for every single hand, we thought
Work for every single hand

The Joads rolled into a jungle camp
It was there that they cooked down a stew
And the hungry little kids in the jungle camp
Said, we’d like to have some too, yes
We’d like to have some, too

A deputy sheriff fired loose at a man
He shot a woman in the back
But before he could take his aim again
It was Preacher Casy dropped him in his tracks, good boy
Preacher Casy dropped him in his tracks

Well, they handcuffed Casy and they took him to jail
But man, he got away
He met Tom Joad by the old river bridge
And these few words he did say, Preacher Casy,
These few words he did say

Well I preached for the Lord a mighty long time
I preached about the rich and the poor
But us workin’ folks has got to stick together
Or we ain’t got a chance any more, God knows
Or we ain’t got a chance any more

Then the deputies come and Tom and Casy run
To a place where the water runs down
And the vigilante thug hit Casy with a club
And he lay Preacher Casy on the ground
And he lay Preacher Casy on the ground

Tom Joad he grabbed the deputy’s club
He brung it down on his head
When Tommy took flight that dark and rainy night
It was a preacher and a deputy lyin’ dead, two men
A preacher and a deputy lyin’ dead

Tommy went back to where his Mama was asleep
He woke her up out of bed
He kissed good-bye to the mother that he loved
And he said what Preacher Casy said, Tom Joad
He said what Preacher Casy said.

Ev’rybody might be just one big soul
Well it looks that-a way to me
Everywhere that you look in the day or night
That’s where I’ gonna be, ma
That’s where I’m gonna be

Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain’t free
Wherever men are fightin’ for their rights,
Thats where I’m gonna be, ma
That’s where I’m gonna be

Audio clips of the song as done by
Woody Guthrie


first half

second half

Audio clips of the song as done by
Country Joe McDonald
on the
Tribute to Woody series

EN00516A.gif (885 Byte)
opening
EN00516A.gif (885 Byte)
last five stanzas

According to Woody Guthrie's biographer Joe Klein, the song was written just after Woody had seen John Ford's movie. Guthrie was in New York then, and had asked Pete Seeger if he knew anybody that owned a typewriter; Seeger accompanied Woody to a friend's place, where Woody sat down with half a gallon of wine and began to work on the song. Klein summarizes in Woody Guthrie. A Life: "Seeger watched for a while, but eventually dozed off. The next morning he found the bottle empty, Guthrie asleep on the floor, and a seventeen-verse ballad called 'Tom Joad' sitting in the typewriter."

 

 

 

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