Peggy Quotes

The tall and slender folk singer gracefully managed the stage all evening, moving from banjo to guitar to dulcimer to piano to autoharp to concertina. Marilyn Blumer, Anchorage Daily News

Peggy Quotes 2

With the singing voice of a 20-year old, the tone and temperament of a slightly acidic and world-wise 40-year old, and possessing the studied acumen of a 500-year old, the lady enjoyed a warm intimate gathering of friends and family upon the occasion of her 70th birthday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England.
- Mark S. Tucker


Love Call Me Home Notes

Love Call Me Home

the song texts with notes on where these traditional songs come from by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum - March15, 2007 


words and music and © 2003 Peggy Seeger
administered by harmony music, ltd.
Listen to Sing About These Hard Times (mp3)

Chorus: Sing about these hard times,
Sing all about these hard old times,
Sing about these hard times
When will the good times roll?

I worked hard, I played my part
That's what I did right from the start
But these hard times are gonna break my heart
When will the good times roll? (chorus)

Life gets harder every year
Those with the least have the most to fear
Those with the most just don't care
When will the good times roll? (chorus)

The big corporations got no home
And the men on the Hill got hearts of stone
They worry my life like a dog with a bone
When will the good times roll? (chorus)

They moved my job to Mexico
Where the children slave and the pay is low
How I'm gonna live I just don't know
When will the good times roll? (chorus)

O, the world is ill divided
Those who work most are the least provided
& When they got a war they want US to fight it
When will the good times roll? (chorus)

Created for an event at the Asheville Arts Museum on March 23, 2003, this song was originally entitled 'Sing about Those Hard Times'. That version dealt with the late 1920s and the Depression because the occasion was a celebration of the work of the great North American artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969). There were rooms and rooms of his paintings, drawing and photographs. I updated the song to the hard times we are going through now and changed Those to These. If you are interested in using folksong tunes as a resource for writing new songs you might take a peek at the song "Down to the River to Pray", popularised in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? There are most definitely resonances between that tune and mine.


words and music, USA traditional
from the singing of Texas Gladden and the playing of her brother,
Hobart Smith
5-string banjo tuning: Key of G, ordinary G tuning on 5-string banjo
Listen to  Poor Ellen Smith (mp3)

Poor Ellen Smith, how was she found?
Shot through the heart lying dead on the ground.

Who had the heart, O who had the skill
To shoot my poor love for a ten dollar bill.

I saw her on Monday before that sad day
They come and they taken her body away.

I did ask sweet Ellen to be my dear wife
I loved her too dearly to take her sweet life.

Now she's in her grave, hand on her breast
And the bloodhounds and sheriff don't give me no rest.

I hung out six weeks afraid of the time
They might find the one who committed that crime.

They took their Winchesters, hunted me down
They come and they got me in Mount Airy Town.

Now I'm in jail, a prisoner am I,
But I know God is with me, hears every cry.

The jury will hang me, that is if they can
but God knows I die an innocent man.

My brother wrote me, wrote me to say
The flowers on her grave have all faded away.

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
Peggy says she learned this well-known murder ballad from the singing of Texas Gladden, accompanied by Hobart Smith, Gladden's brother, playing the banjo. Gladden and Smith, of southeastern Virginia, were star informants for folklorist Alan Lomax and were first collected by him in the 1930s and 1940s as well as later in 1959 and 1960. If you listen to a fragment of their reissued version found on Portraits: Texas Gladden: Ballad Legacy (Rounder Records: 2001), and compare it to Peggy's rendition, you can hear that Peggy pays homage to Gladden's strong, high-pitched vocal style as well as to Smith's up-tempo, intricate banjo-playing. Nevertheless, Peggy has made this song her own with melodic variations, signature banjo turnarounds, and breaks between the verses, as well as with a propulsive accompaniment that accents and syncopates the rhythm with startling chordal shifts.

The lyrics of 'Poor Ellen Smith' have no immediate antecedents in Great Britain or Ireland. As is common with execution ballads, the words are said to have been written by the condemned man, Peter DeGraff, after his conviction for the murder of Ellen Smith (July 20, 1892, in Forsyth County, North Carolina). Legend describes him sitting on his coffin while playing the tune on his banjo. Feelings ran so high after the trial, apparently, that singing the song was banned in public. A letter, purportedly in DeGraff's handwriting, was found in Ellen Smith's bosom when her body was discovered. A copy of it is located in the WPA holdings at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, and reads as follows:

    July 18, 1892. Dear Miss Ellen I write this to
    You to sia if yow ar mad with me if you ar let
    me no. Pleas dont think hard of me for I hav lov
    you all of my life an cante lov no body but yow
    so pleas lov me from your lov Peter DeGraff.
    Sow I want yow to come tomorrow to the Spring
    if yow will pleas com and don't fail for I want
    you to com. Good by lov won a kiss for you as
    you hav don before. P.D.A.G. (1)

(1) 1 DeGraff’s letter and much of the information in the preceding paragraph can be found in the notes written by folklorist D.K. Wilgus for a recording of Doc Hopkins produced by John Edwards Memorial Foundation (Birch: 1945).

Peter DeGraff was tried and executed in Winston-Salem, although, in several variants of this ballad, he proclaims his innocence. In other versions, he is imprisoned rather than executed.

'Poor Ellen Smith' has circulated widely. Names that tie it to a particular place and circumstance have often been altered in the process.

For other versions consult:
The Traditional Ballad Index, search 'Poor Ellen Smith' and 'Ellen Smith' as two separate songs:

For additional recorded versions search the entry for 'Poor Ellen Smith':
The Folk Music Index:
The Grateful Dead Discography:


words and music: USA traditional
The Hangman Song, © 1965 Jean Ritchie for the Ritchie Family, KY
guitar tuning: key of C#major; 6:low C#; 5: low G#; 4-1, as in normal
guitar tuning; play as if in C

Hangman, hangman, slack up your rope
Slack it for awhile
I look over yonder and I seen Pa coming
Coming for many a mile.

Say Pa, say Pa, have you brung me no gold,
Gold to pay my fine?
No sir, no sir, brung you no gold,
Gold to pay your fine,
I've just come for to see you hanged
All on the gallows line.

Hangman, hangman, slack up your rope
Slack it for awhile
I look over yonder and I see Ma coming
Coming for many a mile.

Say Ma, say Ma, have you brung me no gold,
Gold to pay my fine?
No sir, no sir, brung you no gold,
Gold to pay your fine,
I've just come for to see you hanged
All on the gallows line.

Hangman, hangman, slack up your rope
Slack it for awhile
I look over yonder, seen my true love coming
Coming for many a mile.

True love, I stretch my hand to thee
No other help I know;
If you withdraw your hand from me
O whither shall I go?

True love, true love, have you brung me no gold,
Gold to pay my fine?
Yes sir, yes sir, brung you some gold,
Gold to pay your fine,
I've not come for to see you hanged
All on the gallows line.

It's hard to love, hard to be loved,
Hard to make up your mind;
You've broke the heart of many poor girl
True love, but you won't break mine.

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
Hangman, Hangman (Maid Free From The Gallows, Child #95)

Peggy first recorded this song in 1957 on Peggy Seeger: Folksongs and Ballads (RLP12-655, 1957), and she remains remarkably faithful to that version almost fifty years later, retaining the same C G D G B E guitar tuning and a similar rolling riff on the guitar. Here she has added the verse:

    True love, I stretch my hand to thee
    No other help I know
    If you withdraw your hand from me
    O whither shall I go?

Peggy says she doesn't remember where she got the song but the tune and lyrical structure are similar to a version found on Jean Ritchie: Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40145, 2003). Ritchie learned the song from her father, Balis W. Ritchie, who was born in Knott County, Kentucky in 1869. The lyrics Peggy sings are widespread and make use of incremental repetitions to expand or compress the story at the singer's discretion. In verse after verse, the main character, who is about to be hanged, asks relatives if they have brought the money needed to pay off the executioner or judge:

    'Hey Pa (Ma, Brother, Sister, etc.), did you bring me any gold?
    Gold to pay my fee?

Each in turn answers that they have brought no money but have come to see the main character executed. At the end, a lover arrives with gold to pay the fee. We cannot always be sure how the story concludes, but this version seems headed for a happy ending, with a final verse tacked on to serve as a wry commentary:

    'Its hard to love, hard to be loved
    Hard to make up your mind
    You've broke the heart of many poor girl
    True love, but you won't break mine.'

In Peggy's song, the condemned person is a man, although the narrator's voice shifts for that last verse into that of a woman. Shifting narrative voices are quite common in the older ballads, as are dialogues and incremental repetitions such as those used here. This particular ballad, widespread throughout Europe and present in America from the colonial period onward, is certainly old. Its narrative can be traced back as far as the 'Distressed Handmaid,' an Irish tale from the ninth century. (1) A West-Indian cante-fable bears a strong narrative resemblance to that ancestral version. (2) Other versions had probably appeared in America by the seventeenth century and eventually found a place not only among British-Americans but among African-American singers.

(1) Ingeborg Urcia, "The Gallows and the Golden Ball: An Analysis of 'The Maid Freed from the Gallows' (Child 95)," The Journal of American Folklore, 79 (1966), p. 466
(2) Ibid, p. 466

In early versions from England and Scotland, a woman usually takes on the leading role as in the 'Maid Freed From the Gallows,' whose title the nineteenth-century ballad scholar Francis James Child uses as the generic name for all permutations of this sung narrative. He describes versions from continental Europe in which the maid is captured by corsairs; her family refuses to pay the ransom, but her sweetheart eventually comes up with the money. In one family of versions sometimes titled the 'The Golden Ball,' a maid (often a servant girl) is about to be executed for stealing or losing a golden ball from her mistress. In yet another cluster of versions, the central figure is caught in either a 'prickly' or a 'briery' bush. This latter group is uncommon in America.

Contemporary updates of the ballad include Led Zeppelin's revision of Leadbelly's 'Gallows Pole.' In their rendition, the hangman takes everything offered by the family members, including the sister's sexual favors, and then laughs as the condemned man swings (lyrics:

'The Maid Freed From The Gallows' has been given a dramatic rendition among African-Americans in the southern United States and there is some indication of its use as a play-party game.

For a partial listing of written and recorded versions consult The Traditional Ballad Index:

For more recorded versions go to:
Masato Sakurai's compendium of recorded materials from the Folk Music Index posted on the online forum, 'Mudcat Café': - 812665


words and music: traditional USA

Love, 0 love, O careless love
Love, O love, O careless love
Love, O love, O careless love
See what careless love have done.

Love my momma and poppa too (3)
I'd leave them both to go with you. (chorus)

When I wore my apron low (3)
You'd follow me through rain and snow.

Now my apron's to my chin (3)
You pass my door and won't come in. (chorus)

On this railroad bank I stand (3)
All for the love of a railroad man.

How I wish that train would come (3)
And take me back where I come from. (chorus)

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
Peggy says 'Careless Love' descends from an English song 'You've Been Careless Love,' and she sings it in 3/4 time or waltz rhythm. The result sounds quite different from the more familiar tune variants associated with early African-American blues tradition. There are few descriptions of American song variants pre-dating the twentieth century. The celebrated blues composer W.C. Handy (1873-1958) recalled that he heard in 1892 in Alabama and copyrighted his own version of it as 'Loveless Love' (recorded by Noble Sissle & his Sizzling Syncopators in 1921). Handy's version went on to become a jazz and blues standard.

In 1911, song collector Howard Odum collected another African-American version as 'Kelly's Love,' and 'Careless Love' is often called by that title in black tradition. Floating lyrics in many of the versions, black and white, resemble those found in English songs such as 'I Wish, I Wish' or 'Waly, Waly.'

Whatever name it goes by, the song is widespread in blues, jazz, old-time, bluegrass, and folk repertoires. A partial list of recording can be found through:

The Folk Music Index

For further written and recorded versions consult

The Traditional Ballad Index


words and music: traditional USA
O. Love is Teasin'© Arr., additional words, music, Jean Ritchie. From the singing of Peggy Stanton (born Co. Sligo, Eire) at Henry St. Settlement, NYC, in 1947.

Love is teasing, love is pleasing
Love is a jewel when first 'tis new
But love grows older then waxes colder
And fades away like morning dew.

I left my father, I left my mother
I left my brothers and sisters too
I left my home and kind relations
I left them all just to follow you.

O, if I'd known before I courted
That love had-a been such a killin' thing
I'd have locked my heart in a box of golden
And pinned it up with a silver pin.

I never thought when love was a-borning
That it would grow wings and fly away
How many a bright sunshiny morning
Turns out a dark and a dreary day.

So girls, beware of false true lovers
And never mind what they do or say
They're like the stars on a summer's morning
You think they're near and they're far away.

Love is teasing, love is pleasing
Love is a jewel when first 'tis new
But love grows older then waxes colder
And fades away like morning dew.

Peggy says she learned the tune of "Love Is Teasing" from the influential traditional singer, Jean Ritchie. Jean sings it in her "high lonesome" Appalachian style but actually learned "O Love Is Teasin'" (her version of the song) in 1946 from Peggy Staunton, an Irish kitchen and dining-room worker at New York City's Henry Street Settlement. Jean, a young social worker from Kentucky, lived at the Settlement's dorm when she first arrived in the city. As Jean reminisces in an internet discussion on Mudcat Café (topical thread "New Book/CD: 'The Rose & The Briar'"), "we used to swap songs and jig-steps in the dining room after everybody else had gone."

The words of "Love is Teasing" resemble those found in three similar songs, "O Waly, Waly," "The Water is Wide," and "Down in the Meadows" and all of these can be traced back to the ballad "Jamie Douglas" (Child 204). In "Jamie Douglas," a bride has been falsely accused of infidelity and is sent back to her father with an aching heart. All of the shorter songs have whittled away the narrative over time leaving nothing but an emotional core. Various versions journeyed back and forth between Ireland, Britain, and North America, and singers often augment whatever verses they have learned with others from a common stock of associated "floating" verses. Peggy has done this here, giving her unique stamp to a universal emotion. Songs of this sort, in which narrative plays no role and emotions are conveyed through rich imagery, are called lyric songs and play an important role in British and American repertoire.

For further bibliographical reference and recordings consult:

The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World

Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Resources - Loviste


words and music: traditional USA
lap dulcimer tuning: Key of F; double strings tuned to a high C; lower strings on a middle C and F below middle C

One morning as I rambled
Two miles below Palm Roy;
I met a farmer's daughter
All on the mountain high.

I said, My dear, my fair one,
Your beauty shines so clear
All on this lonely mountain
I'm glad to meet you here.

Your beauty has ensnared me
I cannot pass you by,
But with my gun I'll guard you
All on the mountains high.

These words were scarcely spoken
When she fell in a maze,
Her eyes as bright as diamonds
Upon me she did gaze.

Her rosy lips and cheeks
They lost their former hue
And she fell in my arms
Silent as morning dew.

I had but kissed her once or twice
When she come to again
and modestly she asked me
Pray, sir, what is your name?

Go look in yonder forest
My castle you will find
'Tis wrote in ancient history
My name is Rynerdine.

But now, my dear, my fair one,
Don't let your parents know
For they may prove my ruin
Perhaps my overthrow.

If you come to yonder forest
Perhaps you' will me find,
Enquire at my castle
Call for Rynerdine.

She sought him in his forest
Perhaps she did him find.
But she's not in that castle
Nor is Rynerdine.

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
Peggy describes Reynard the Fox as 'the sly seducer, the will-o'-the-wisp who vanishes when sought, along with those pretty young girls who cannot resist following him.' A touch of the supernatural reverberates in the tune and arrangement to which she has set lyrics substantially the same as those contributed by H.F. Watson, Marion County, West Virginia to Josiah H. Combs' Folksongs of the Southern United States (ed. D.K. Wilgus, Austin: 1967).

Playing a four-stringed Appalachian dulcimer (three high Cs and an F) backed by a drone psaltery, Peggy sings her own haunting melody with a frequently sharped 4th, used without modulating from one key to the next. She says she wrote the tune deliberately in the Lydian mode (found on the white keys of a piano by starting with F) which she loves because it sends 'chills into interesting places.' Even so, it also has a decidedly mixolydian feeling with its use of the flatted 7th and naturalized 4th in the phrase 'two miles below Pomeroy.' (Peggy reaffirms the song is in Lydian with cross relations on the 4th and 7th intervals.)

The song appeared in British broadsides in the early nineteenth century where it was usually titled 'On the Mountains High.' In most texts, it deals with the seduction of a female by a mysterious stranger or outlaw who introduces himself to her on the Hills of Pomeroy (probably in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland). The stranger promises to protect her with a gun. After she swoons into his arms, he urges confidentiality and informs her that he might be found at his castle in the forest. Occasionally the maiden warns others against falling for such a rake, but in other versions she sets off searching for him.

The ballad has rarely been collected from oral tradition in England or Scotland. Doug DeNatale's ' 'Reynardine': A Broadside Ballad of Seduction' (Western Folklore, Vol. 39: 1980) traces Reynardine's publishing history as well as its wide diffusion in America, where it can be traced back as far as a manuscript sheet in 1801. Traditional singers have also sung it in Canada as well as throughout the eastern half of the United States, and its frequent appearance in nineteenth century songsters seems to have stabilized the plot and text. Peggy's words are notable for grace rather than for idiosyncrasies. An enticingly sinister mood is suggested by such phrases as 'All on this lonely mountain I'm glad to see you here,' 'These words had scarce been spoken/She fell in a maze,' 'And she fell in my arms/Silent as morning dew.' They combine with Peggy's ambiguous added verse:

    She sought him in his forest
    Perhaps she did him find.
    But she's not in that castle
    Nor is Rinordine.

As the Vermont folksinger Margaret MacArthur wrote in her 'Introduction' to her album, On the Mountains High (Cambridge: Living Folk Records F-LFR-100, 1971), one Kentuckian accused of rape explained to the judge that when he sang 'that ald sang Rinordine' to his victim, 'she r'ared up on her hind legs like a stallion.' In America at least, the mysteries of seduction and surrender seem paramount in this ballad.

Fragmentary versions were set down with their tunes by some of the early 20th-century Irish collectors, most notably Herbert Hughes in Irish Country Songs, Vol. 1 (London: 1909) who claimed that in Donegal, where he collected a verse or two of the song, Reynardine is considered to be a 'faery who changes into the shape of a fox.' Stephen D. Winick, in his 'A.L. Lloyd and Reynardine: Authorship and Authenticity in the Afterlife of a British Broadside Ballad,' (Folklore, Dec, 2004) argues that this is the only explicit reference to Reynardine as a supernatural character prior to A.L. Lloyd's reworking of the song in the late 1950s through the mid 1960s. Winick believes that Lloyd created his own supernatural version out of Hughes' fragments, other literary reworkings and verses, and versions derived from the broadsides. In none of his writings about Reynardine does Lloyd make a direct connection to the bluebeard-like and decidedly paranormal Mr. Fox of British legend. Rather, he juxtaposes Reynard with references to Mr. Fox as if trying to merge aspects of the two characters. The result is a song so compelling that its supernatural aspects have bubbled over and affected how most singers touched by the British folksong revival view versions of the song today. Lloyd's transformation of Reynardine has touched an emotional core. In keeping with this magical spirit, Peggy joins tune and word to traditional text, forming her own eerie and psychologically powerful version.

For a partial listing of written and recorded versions consult The Traditional Ballad Index

For more recorded versions search for Reynardine in The Folk Music Index - Rey

Some Versions of Reynardine as recorded by A.L Lloyd:
Lloyd, A. L. n.d. (1956?) The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs. Tradition Records TLP 1016 (earlier version)
Lloyd, A. L. 1966. First Person. Topic 12T11


words and music: traditional USA
5-string banjo tuning: Key of Eb; 5th and 3rd, low Gb; 4th, low Eb; 3rd, Bb; 2nd, D.

London's Bridge is falling down
Do Lord, remember me
London's Bridge is falling down
On the prettiest girl I know.

Choose you a partner, honey my love,
Do Lord, remember me
Choose you a partner, honey my love
You're the prettiest girl I know

Kiss your partner, honey my love,
Do Lord, remember me (etc)

Circle round, honey my love (etc)

Take her home, honey my love (etc)

Choose you another one, honey my love (etc)

Circle round, honey my love (etc)

Hug your partner. honey my love (etc)

Then take her home, honey my love (etc)

London's Bridge is a-falling down
Do Lord, remember me
London's Bridge is a-falling down
On the prettiest girl I know.

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
"London Bridge Is Falling Down" is, at one level, a simple children's game, but for Peggy it hints at possible practices of human sacrifice. Indeed, European and Asian legends suggest that a body entombed during the construction of a bridge could protect travelers as they crossed over water. In this country, two children usually make an arch with their outstretched arms and other children pass underneath until one is captured when the arch descends. The "prisoner," "sweetheart," or "fair lady" must then make a choice or be chosen in order to gain release. "I remember playing London Bridge as a game myself when I first went to school," recalls Peggy:

    "I even remember what I was wearing. I loved those games. The 'circle round' is an odd one because in the game you don't circle. You file through the 'bridge' while the children who make the bridge hold their hands up."

William Wells Newell, in his classic Games and Songs of American Children (New York: 1883) compares Anglo-American versions in which the bridge falls or burns and is built up again to those of France and Italy, where children choose between heaven and hell or wine and water. According to Newell, the game is mentioned by Rabelais as "The Fallen Bridge" (c. 1533) and appears as "Charlestown Bridge" in an American chap-book called Mother Goose's Memories during the early nineteenth century. He also tells us that Pennsylvania Dutch children called a German version of the game ("The Magdeburg Bridge") the "Bridge of Holland." An English version of London Bridge first appears in print in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (1744), although printed references appear in the seventeenth century and circulated in oral tradition well before that.

In addition to its mythological resonances, the song has often stood for the resilient and enduring nature of England, and school children there have frequently been taught that it refers to the temporary destruction of London Bridge by King Olaf, early in the 11th century. Destroyed and rebuilt again and again, one of the bridge's recent incarnations was moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona where it now attracts tourists by the thousand. Peggy's step-daughter, the celebrated pop singer Kirsty MacColl (1959-2000), used the "falling-down" of London Bridge to symbolize the waning of British power in her own contemporary song, "London Bridge is Falling Down."

Peggy's version comes from her parents, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Charles Seeger. She says she learned it from her mother, but there is also a 1937 recording of Charles Seeger singing a similar verse of it on Songs for Political Action (Bear Family box set, 1996). Peggy herself previously recorded "London Bridge" on her American Folksongs for Banjo (Folk-Lyric) and included it in her book, Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger (Oak, 1964). Peggy's family version employs a distinctive tune and an unusual set of play-party lyrics that emphasize choosing, kissing, and hugging multiple partners.

The original version of the Seeger family song was probably collected in Arkansas by John A. Lomax in 1936 and Laurence Powell, at that time the conductor of Little Rock's symphony orchestra. According to Vance Randoph and Frances Emberson's "The Collection of Folk Music in the Ozarks," (The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 60, No. 236. 1947, pp. 115-125), Powell invited John Lomax (perhaps with his wife Ruby T.) to Arkansas, where they recorded 78 songs from the great traditional singer Emma Dusenbury of Mena, Arkansas. We know that Mrs. Sidney Robertson and Lee Hays (Dusenbury's cousin) did some additional recording of Dusenbury, but "London Bridge" came from the Lomax-Powell sessions according to Duncan Emrich's American Folk Poetry: An Anthology (Boston: 1974). Ruth Crawford Seeger transcribed four of these songs from Emma Dusenbury for Our Singing Country (New York: 1941). The book, authored by John and Alan Lomax, is still in use today. Although "London Bridge" does not appear in the book, Peggy's mother may have learned the tune and lyrical structure of the song in the course of working from the set of field recordings of which it was a part.

Dusenbury's song, close to Mississippi versions on file at the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, employs "O, Girls remember me" as the second line refrain instead of Peggy's "Do Lord, remember me." (We know that Charles Seeger sings "O, Girls remember me" on his 1937 recording.) Peggy's version also adds other common play-party or dance figures such as "circle round" and "take her home" as separate verses, regularly interjecting "honey my love" instead of other instructions such as "as we march around." Some of these displaced instructions also appear as separate verses. Peggy's song is thus given a regular and predictable form and meter.

Who contributed most to this lyrical transformation? It's hard to say. The song passed through the creative minds of both mother and daughter both of whom respected tradition even as they infused it with their own meanings and interpretations.

Emma Dusenbury's Lyrics to "London Bridge" (from the American Folklife Center,AFS 865A1):

    London Bridge is a-burning down,
    O, girls remember me
    London bridge is a-burning down
    For the prettiest girl I know.

    Choose you one as we march around
    O, girls remember me
    Choose you one as we march around,
    Of the prettiest girls you know.

    Hug her neat and kiss her sweet
    O girls remember me
    Hug her nice and kiss her sweet
    For the prettiest girl you know.

    Take her by the right hand, tell her how you love her,
    Oh, girls, remember me,
    Take her by the right hand, tell her how you love her,
    For the prettiest girl I know.

Invaluable research help was provided by Ann Hoog, reference specialist at the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center ( ), and also by Joe Offer and "Q" of Mudcat Café (


words and music: traditional USA
© 1965 Jean Ritchie, Geordie Music Publishing Co

I went to church on Sunday
My true love passed me by
I knew her mind was changing
By the roving of her eye.
By the roving of her eye,
By the roving of her eye,
I knew her mind was changing
By the roving of her eye.

O Hannah, loving Hannah,
Come give to me your hand,
You said if ever you'd marry
That I would be your man,
That I would be (etc)

Now you have broke your promise
Go home with who you please,
While my poor heart is aching,
Here lying at your ease. (etc)

My Hannah's tall and handsome,
Her hands are long and small,
I know she is good-natured
And that's the best of all. (etc)

I'll go down to the river
When everyone's asleep,
I'll think of loving Hannah
And then sit down and weep. (etc)

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
It's quite likely that Peggy first became familiar with "Loving Hannah" while transcribing all the melodies and guitar chords for Alan Lomax's Folk Songs of North America, (New York, Doubleday: 1960). The version in the book, like most songs of that name, comes from the singing of Jean Ritchie, who in her 2nd edition of Folksongs of the Southern Appalachians, (University Press of Kentucky 1997), says "she learned it from her father Balis and her cousins, Jason and Isom." The following e-mail excerpt (Jean Ritchie to Elisabeth Null 3/13/07) goes into more detail and describes how a song may be pulled together from several sources and blended into one singer's distinct version:

    "Well, Dad knew a fragment of it; Uncle Jason Ritchie knew three verses; the total song I finally heard from another old member of the family, Isom Ritchie. All three of them had the same general melody, and mine is a melding of the three I guess. The words also- the three nearly-the-same variants had lyrics that meant the same but with subtle differences, as did mine when it had "settled" in my mind and heart as a song-story.

Jean says that in her "long life and much rambling about the world I haven't found, outside my family and the small Kentucky Mountain community where my dad was born and raised, this particular version of "Loving Hannah." [communiqué by "kytrad," 3/08/06 in topical thread, "Songs to Avoid ," Mudcat Café internet forum]

Peggy kept Jean's tune but shifted the words around a bit herself, borrowing lines and images from other floating verses associated with this song family. Hannah, in Peggy's song for instance, is "tall and handsome" while Jean's Hannah is "fair and proper." Peggy's Hannah is valued for her good nature whereas Jean's Hannah is "quite good lookin'." In either case, "that's the best of all."

"Loving Hannah" is extremely popular in Ireland, Scotland, and England where it has been recorded by Shirley Collins and Mary Black as well as by younger singers such as Isobel Campbell. Many simply assume it is a Scots song, especially as it was a mainstay in the repertoire of traditional Aberdonian singer, Jeannie Robertson. The song's peregrinations are a bit more complicated.

Sandy and Caroline Paton, American folk singers who run Folk-Legacy Records, made a collecting trip to Scotland in 1958. They recall visiting Jeannie Robertson and hearing her sing "Loving Hannah" "slowly and majestically, in the Scottish 'big ballad' style." When they asked her how she acquired the song, they were startled by Jeannie Robertson's reply: "when the American folksinger Jean Ritchie was visiting here, she gave me a wee record of some of her own songs. I learned it off of that record."

Jean Ritchie had met Jeannie Robertson on a Fulbright in 1952, collecting songs and sharing those from her own Appalachian tradition. She had made a small, vinyl lp of "Loving Hannah" and five other songs for HMV and not only passed the disc along to Jeannie Robertson, but sang the song for Elizabeth Cronin, an important source singer from Cork, Ireland. This became a second means by which the Ritchie family song injected itself into Scots and Irish oral tradition. By the mid-nineties, Mary Black, the well-known Irish singer, told Jean that she had learned "Loving Hannah" from her brother, "who had it from an old lady down the street from him." And so this song has returned to the old world from whence it came: "Loving Hannah" is catalogued (without image) as part of the Bodleian Library collection of early modern broadsides at Oxford.

How appropriate, then, for Peggy, who has lived in both Britain and America, to sing this song! No matter how specific its meanings are for Jean Ritchie, the song also speaks of universal sentiments and has lodged itself in the repertoires of traditional singers from several countries. It has become, in effect, a folk standard.

For further information about Loving Hannah and the variants to which it is related, search for texts in the traditional Ballad Index and recordings in Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index.


from the singing of Ozella Jones. State Penitentiary, Raiford, Florida, 1936
Listen to Bad Bad Girl (mp3)

I been a bad, bad girl
Wouldn't treat nobody right.
I been a bad, bad girl
Wouldn't treat nobody right.
They wanna give me thirty-five year
Someone wanted to take my life.

Now'm so sorry, even the day I was born
Now'm so sorry, even the day I was born.
I wanna say to all you bad fellas
That you are in the wrong.

Judge, please don't kill me,
I won't be bad no more
Judge, please don't kill me
I won't be bad no more.
I'll listen to everybody,
Something I never done before. (chorus)

I'm sittin' here in prison
With my black cap on
I'm sittin' here in prison
With my black cap on.
Boys, remember me
Even when I am dead and gone. (chorus)

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
When Peggy sings "Bad, Bad Girl" she captures and reinterprets the extraordinary emotional power of Ozella Jones's original rendition recorded by John A. and Alan Lomax at the State Penitentiary, Raiford Florida in 1936. In their notes to Our Singing Country (New York: 1941), the Lomaxes communicate their experience not only of hearing that particular singer but encountering the rural blues tradition among women:

    If the Bessie Smith enthusiasts could hear Ozella Jones or some other clear-voiced Southern Negro girl sing the blues, they might, we feel, soon forget their idol with her brassbound, music-hall throat. The blues, sung by an unspoiled singer in the South, sung without the binding restrictions of conventional piano accompaniment or orchestral arrangement, grow up like a wild flowering vine in the woods. Their unpredictable, incalculably-tender melody bends and then swings and shivers with the lines like a reed moving in the wind. The blues then show clearly their country origin, their family connection with the "holler."

Ozella sings out of the depth of her own experience as a prisoner and may well be expressing a personal commentary on the facts that caused her to be convicted. There is no motivation here, no excuse, just a recognition of her "badness" coupled with an apology and a promise to do better. The voice is high, girlish with none of the sassiness or injured dignity of the great classic, blues singers. There is an almost passive innocence in her rendition.

Peggy pitches the song lower and sings the song as a mature woman with gravel in her voice: slowly, deliberately, with plenty of space between the phrases. She brings a musician's appreciation to the gapped, pentatonic tune Ð drawing it out and emphasizing its mournful singularity. She is neither passive nor innocent but resigned and even tragic.

Ozella Jones rendition is included on the two-disc anthology Alan Lomax: Blues Songbook (Rounder: 2003, #1866)


words and music: traditional USA
5-string banjo tuning: Key of F#minor (modal tuning); 5th: high F#; 4th: low C#; 3rd: low F#; 2nd: low B; lst: C#

When I was a little boy, I worked on market Square
I used to pocket money, but I never did it fair;
I rode along the highway, I learned to rob and steal
When I made a big haul, how happy did I feel
How happy did I feel.

I used to wear the white hat, my horse and buggy fine,
I used to court a pretty girl, I always called her mine.
I courted her for beauty, her love to me was rare,
She'd throw her arms around me and kiss me unaware.
And kiss me unaware.

One night as I lay sleeping, I dreamed a mighty dream
I dreamed I was a merchant marching down the golden stream.
I woke all brokenhearted in Logan County Jail
Not a friend around me for to go my bail,
For to go my bail.

Down came the jailer after ten o'clock
With a bunch of keys all in his hand, he shoved 'em in the lock
Cheer up, cheer up, you prisoner, I thought I heard him say,
You're going around to Moundsville, seven years to stay,
Seven years to stay.

Down came my darling, ten dollars in her hand,
O my dearest darling, I've done all that I can.
May the lord be with you wherever you may go,
And the devil take the jury for sending you below,
For sending you below.

Sitting by the railroad, waiting for the train,
I'm going away to Moundsville to wear the ball and chain.
I'm going away to leave you, darling don't you cry,
Take a glass of whisky and let it all go by,
Let it all go by.

Peggy's enjoys singing the hell out of this song and does so in most performances. In "What's New," (a yearly online personal update on her website) she recalls playing it with fiddler Eliza Carthy for her 70th birthday concert in Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (May 29, 2006): "Eliza and I sat there like two hoydens and whomped out Logan County Jail on fiddle and banjo." (a version which appears on her new CD, THREESCORE AND TEN). On this recording "Logan County Jail" appears in just as lively a rendition, but with Reyna Gellert on fiddle.

The song is a ballad of American origin that can be found in a variety of localized and related forms: "Dallas County Jail," "Sporting Cowboy," "Ramsey County Jail," "Seven Long Years in Prison," "Prisoner's Dream," "Hawkins County Jail," "Moundsville Prisoner," "Logan County Courthouse" etc. Peggy's version closely parallels the B version collected by John Harrington Cox in his Folksongs of the South (Cambridge: Harvard University press, 1925), and she tells us about a thief who leaves his sweetheart behind when he is sent to the state penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia (used as a prison from 1876 to 1995). As in most versions, we do not know what specific event landed the protagonist in jail.

G. Malcolm Laws Jr., in Native American Balladry (Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1964) classifies "Logan County Jail" as a ballad "despite its rambling emotionalism, " because it dramatizes "a single major event in the life of the narrator." (p. 76). He describes the song as having a loose construction a singer is likely to add onto or otherwise alter. He believes the song may be inspired by British broadsides and reminds us that Vance Randolph, the Ozark folksong collector, drew parallels between the prisoner's dream in "Logan County Jail" and a similar dream in "Van Diemen's Land," the great British and Irish transport ballad eventually modernized and rewritten by U2 (p. 79):

    Oh! oft when I am slumbering,
    I have a pleasant dream:
    With my sweet girl I am sitting,
    Down by some purling stream,
    Through England I am roaming,
    With her at my command,
    Then waken, brokenhearted,
    Upon Van Diemen's Land.

This particular tune for "Logan County Jail" is Peggy's own and underscores the wildness of a "bad boy" thoroughly enjoying every moment of his misspent youth.

    " I rode along the highway, I learned to rob and steal
    When I made a big haul, how happy did I feel."

For more information about the song, consult the Traditional Ballad Index
and, for recordings, search "Logan County Jail" in Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index.


traditional USA
from the singing of Edith Harmon, East Tennessee, with added verses
5-string banjo tuning: Key of Fm; 5th: high F; 4th: low C; 3rd: low F; 2nd: low Bb; lst: middle C

Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the sparrow
With my little bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.

Who saw him die?
I, said the fly,
With my little beady eye,
I saw him die.

Who caught his blood?
I, said the fish,
In my little silver dish,
I caught his blood.

Who will sew his shroud?
I, said the beetle,
With my little threaded needle,
I will sew his shroud.

Who will dig his grave?
I, said the crow,
With my little spade and hoe,
I will dig his grave.

Who will be the parson?
I, said the lark,
If it isn't after dark,
I will be the parson.

Who will carry the torch?
I, said the linnet,
I will fetch it in a minute,
I will carry the torch.

Who will haul him there?
I, said the bull,
Because I can pull,
I will haul him there.

Who will lay him in?
I, said the crane,
And I hope it doesn't rain,
I will lay him in.

Who will pat his grave?
I, said the bat
And I'll make it smooth and flat
I will pat his grave.

Who will sing his song?
I, said the swallow,
Just as loud as I can holler,
I will sing his song.

Who will weep and mourn?
I, said the wren,
My grief will never end,
I will weep and mourn.

(note by Elisabeth Higgins Null with Charles H. Baum)
Peggy's version of this eerie Mother Goose tale comes from the singing of Edith Harman of eastern Tennessee, whose "Who Killed Poor Robin?" can be found on one of the Library of Congress Field Recordings (LC AAFS 2907 A2, 1939). Accompanied by her banjo, with just a touch of dulcimer and psaltery, Peggy sings the song as if it were an incantation: low, solemn, straightforward, and with few vocal dynamics, with Irene an octave higher like a shadow in the distance. The result evokes mysterious associations that reach far back into cultural memory.

The first published version of 'Who Killed Cock Robin' appeared in Tommy Thumb's (Pretty) Song Book, 2 vol. (London, 1744) and is thought by those who seek covert political messages in nursery rhymes to allude to the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole, England's de facto prime minister during the reign of George II. Certainly the linkages between satire and the song are strong, and they continue from Thomas Moore and Lord Byron onwards to the present day. Consider Bob Dylan's loosely patterned 'Who Killed Davey Moore?' or the more faithfully constructed ' Who Killed Norma Jean?''as sung by Pete Seeger, who set his own tune to Norman Rosten's words about the death of Marilyn Monroe. Less well-known versifiers have reworked 'Who Killed Cock Robin' for their own purposes. Mrs. Eileen O'Neil Ball submitted a parody to the Boston Globe (December 16, 1965) after her brother, John B. O'Neil had been murdered in a spate of gangland slayings. (Bruce Jackson ''Bitter Parody of Cock Robin," Western Folklore, Vol 27, 1968, p. 52). Calling for justice, she concludes:

    Who demanded action?
    'I said the state,
    'Thirty murders too late,
    I demanded action.'

Most modern updates of the song focus on the direct or indirect complicity of each participant in an act of wrong-doing, whereas more traditional versions, such as the one sung by Peggy, start with an acknowledgement of responsibility and proceed to enumerate all the roles to be played in a communal ritual: the funeral process. The emphasis is less upon who did the wrong than on the processes involved in taking care of the victim. As folklorist Mia Boynton points out, 'Who Killed Cock Robin' is a song about collective decision-making and action (conversation, August 2, 2006). Each living creature volunteers to do its part.

In the last verse, the wren says she will 'weep and mourn' and that her 'grief will never end.' This touches upon the age-old romantic association between Robin Redbreast and Jenny Wren whose wedding has also been the theme both for nursery rhymes and for medieval narratives. On occasion, 'The Courtship and Marriage of Cock Robin' is grafted onto the 'Death of Cock Robin' (an alternative title to 'Who Killed Cock Robin'') and this merger becomes a sort of avian mini-epic . In a merged picture-book version, the wedding feast ends in a melee after a cuckoo takes liberties with the bride. The sparrow shoots Robin with his bow and arrow by mistake in trying to avenge or protect Jenny Wren. This provides a motive for the homicide and may add psychological nuance, but it also robs the rhyme of that stark, archetypal quality Peggy captures in her singing.

Another suggestion about the origins of Cock Robin, comes from the classicist J. Rendel Harris as reviewed by H.J. Rose ('Origin and Meaning of Apple Cults,' The Classical Review, Vol. 34, 1920, pp. 172-173). Both authors associate the 'Death of Cock Robin' with sacrificial rituals connected with St. Stephen's Day in Ireland and archaic forms of yuling or wassailing the apple trees in England. Occasionally, in England, a boy ascends the apple tree, makes chirping noises, and calls for food—a request met by offerings of bread, cheese, and cider. The tree is apt to be attacked and real birds may be willfully killed in the process. A children's game or play-party, found in England and America, is quoted to underscore the connection between the death of a bird and the life of the apple tree:

    Old Robin is dead and in his grave,
    There grew an old apple tree over his head

Alan Lomax enlarges upon the relationship between birds and sacrifice in his own discussion of Cock Robin in The Folk Songs of North America (New York: 1960):

    The roots of Cock Robin probably go back to Nordic myths about the ritual murder of the bringer of fire and the spring; for the robin or the wren was often sacrificed in European renewal-of-the-year ceremonies. (p. 169)

He adds to this a broader psychoanalytic rumination about popular taste among Anglo and Anglo-Americans. In referring to the 'The Frog's Courtship' (Froggie Would A-Wooing Go) as well as 'Who Killed Cock Robin,' Lomax says the following:

    Of the two best children's ballads in English, the first is the story of an animal wedding in which all the animal guests are killed and eaten, the second begins at an inquest and goes on to a funeral; nor is this strange when one considers the blood-stained stanzas of the Anglo-American ballads beloved of adults. In our culture, children, like their parents, have a passionate relish for violence in nursery rhymes, cowboy pictures, comic books, murder mysteries, etc. Oppressed, humiliated, denied, bullied, and talked down to by a race of strong giants, their fancies have naturally run to violence and death. In their dreams they have revenged themselves and in their nightmares they have been punished for their guilty thoughts. (pp. 168-169)

Peggy own speculations show a more historical frame of mind: does Robin Redbreast refer to Robin Hood or to William Rufus (William ll), the ruddy and red-headed second son of William the Conqueror, killed in a hunting accident in New Forest? The correlation of the bird Robin with the outlaw Robin seems to hinge on little more than a shared name. The linkages between Robin and William Rufus, however, are supported by a persistent belief among England's West Country inhabitants that the song in fact refers to the fatal incident. Without more textual and archeological evidence, the song's origins seem to impossible to track through the mists of time. Regardless of its past meanings, it remains primal on a deeply human level as Peggy's performance so powerfully demonstrates.


words, music and © 2001 Peggy Seeger
administered by Bucks Music, London UK

When the waters are deep,
Friends carry me over
When I cry in my sleep
Love call me home.

Time, ferry me down the river,
Friends carry me safely over
Life, tend me on my journey
Love call me home.

When the waters are cold
Friends carry me over
When I'm losing my hold
Love call me home. (chorus)

When I'm weary and cannot swim
Friends carry me over
Open your arms and take me in
Love call me home. (chorus)

Take the gift I bring
Friends carry me over
Deep within me life is singing
Love call me home. (chorus)

Life offers a chance
For friends to carry us over
Time can stop or dance forever
Love call me home. (chorus)

Christine was one of the cultural catalysts in Asheville for over a decade. She wrote documentary scripts, plays, poems and performed in the innovative Playback Theatre. Early in 2000 she was diagnosed at age 49 with a brain tumour and given four months to live. Her friends rallied around her as she made her decision to reject chemotherapy, radiation and invasive medical techniques. The fact that she had no medical insurance played no part in her decision. The song was first sung at UNCA on May 27, 2000 when a benefit was raised to help with her medical costs. Christine was there, with 150, glowing in her red velvet dress. She said she'd extended her time because of her friends, who had surrounded her with love and support during her final year. Many times she said, "I don't want you to forget me." She died peacefully, with dignity, on February 13, 2001. Christine: Your friends will always remember you.

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