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An old American ballad. According to John Lomax,it was "...known to convicts and gang workers from Virginia to Mississippi. Po' Lazarus concerns the doomed attempt of an exploited and underpaid black laborer to even the score by stealing the payroll from his bosses".

As with any folk song, there are countless versions; Alan Lomax recorded at least five different versions during his 1939 recording trip to Florida. This is the one from O Brother, Where Art Thou?*, apparently taken from a recording of a prison gang chopping wood in Mississippi in 1959:

Well the high sheriff he told the deputy
Won't you go out and bring me Laz'rus
Bring him dead or alive
Lord, Lord, bring him dead or alive

Well the deputy he told the high sheriff
Says I ain't goin' to mess with Laz'rus
Well he's a dangerous man,
Lord, Lord he's a dangerous man

Then the high sheriff he found Laz'rus
He was hiding in the middle of the mountain
With his head hung down
Lord, Lord with his head hung down

Then the high sheriff he told Laz'rus
He says Lazarus I come to arrest you
I'll bring you dead or alive
Lord, Lord, bring you dead or alive

Then Laz'rus he told the high sheriff
He says i've never been arrested.
By no one man
By Lord, Lord by no one man

Then the high sheriff he shot Laz'rus
He shot him with a great, big number
With a .45
Lord, Lord with a .45

Well they take him poor laz'rus
Up on the commissary carriage
He said my wounded side
Lord, Lord, my wounded side.


*Transcribed by /me, so if you have corrections or better ears than I, please feel free to /msg me.

As an addendum: having now heard most of the 1939 Lomax recordings of the song (a.k.a. Poor Lazarus, Po' Lazrus, Bad Lazarus), it seems the last verse should read "on the commissary counter. Several versions mention that Lazarus went out West to rob and steal. Most versions also add two further verses:

And his mother,
She was weepin' and a' hollerin'
"My son's dead...
My son's dead.

Lazarus' sister,
She couldn't go to the burial
Stayed home and cried
Stayed home and cried

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