Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Friday Night Concert: “Pay Me My Money Down”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 16, 2011

In 1944 Alan Lomax recorded a song, “Pay Me,” sung by African American stevedores in Brunswick, Georgia. In 1960 Lomax wrote:

They bellowed songs as they hoisted, heaved and screwed down their cargoes, as had twelve generations of their forebears. By the 1940s, however, their songs were no longer nostalgic or oblique. . . . [Their songs] said directly and openly what they thought, and their song has proved enormously appealing to young people all across America.

The song, with a simple melody and simpler lyrics, became a popular his during the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of the young people Lomax was talking about in the early ’60s was a kid from Freehold Borough, New Jersey named Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen. He revived the song a few years ago for his Seeger Sessions Band. Their cover may not sound much like the one Lomax heard in Brunswick sixty-odd years before, but it is guaranteed to lift your spirits.



7 Responses

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  1. Rob Wick said, on September 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    As much as I like Springsteen’s other work, in a way the Seeger Sessions is my favorite album. His version of “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep” is just as good as “Pay Me My Money Down.” Nice to see!


    • Andy Hall said, on September 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      Embarrassed to say I was unaware of the band and their album until recently.

      I mentioned this on another board and one of the commenters there said he went to a Seeger Sessions concert not realizing what it was — he just knew it was Springsteen. He was blown away, said it was the best, most vibrant concert he’d been to by anyone, any time, including several others be The Boss. Great stuff.

  2. Craig L. said, on September 21, 2011 at 5:16 am

    I remember this tune as a Pete Seeger folksong called Hey Li Le Li Le Lo. It was on an album called the Pete Seeger Sampler, the first record I ever heard on a stereo.

  3. Craig L. said, on September 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    • Craig L. said, on September 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      Pay Me My Money Down might have seemed suspect to those inclined to see communist plots everywhere they looked. Hey Lilee Lilee Lo, not so much.

      • corkingiron said, on September 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm

        You impress the hell outta me.

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