display | more...

(music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

"Old Man River" is only one song from a long musical, and the character who sings it (Joe) is a mere laborer, hardly even relevant to the plot -- yet this is the part of Show Boat that everyone remembers, for some reason.

Paul Robeson sings the song here, in the 1936 film. But he apparently didn't like that version, because in 1938, he changed the lyrics to something more defiant and hopeful

 

Old Man River ( 1936 Lyrics)

Ol' man river,

Dat ol' man river

He mus' know sumpin'

But don't say nuthin',

He jes' keeps rollin'

He keeps on rollin' along.

 

He don't plant taters,

He don't plant cotton,

An' dem dat plants 'em

is soon forgotten,

But ol'man river,

He jes keeps rollin'along.

 

You an' me, we sweat an' strain,

Body all achin' an' rackt wid pain,

Tote dat barge!

Lif' dat bale!

Git a little drunk

An' you land in jail.

 

I gits weary

An' sick of tryin'

I'm tired of livin'

An' skeered of dyin',

But ol' man river,

He jes'keeps rolling' along.

 

Darkies all work on de Mississippi,

Darkies all work while de white folks play,

Pullin' dose boats from de dawn to sunset,

Gittin' no rest till de judgement day.

 

Don't look up

An' don't look down,

You don' dast make

De white boss frown.

Bend your knees

An' bow your head,

An' pull dat rope

Until you' dead.

 

Let me go 'way from the Mississippi,

Let me go 'way from de white man boss;

Show me dat stream called de river Jordan,

Dat's de ol' stream dat I long to cross.

 

O' man river,

Dat ol' man river,

He mus' know sumpin'

But don't say nuthin'

He jes' keeps rollin'

He keeps on rollin' along.

 

Long ol' river forever keeps rollin' on...

 

He don't plant tater,

He don't plant cotton,

An' dem dat plants 'em

Is soon forgotten,

but ol' man river,

He jes' keeps rollin' along.

 

Long ol' river keeps hearing dat song.

You an' me, we sweat an' strain,

Body all achin an' racked wid pain.

Tote dat barge!

Lif' dat bale!

Git a little drunk

An' you land in jail.

 

I gits weary

An' sick of tryin'

I'm tired of livin'

An' skeered of dyin',

But ol' man river,

He jes' keeps rollin' along!

 

 


 

The song has since been covered by Judy Garland, by William Warfield, by Frank Sinatra and by Al Jolson, whose version I will not link to, because nobody wants to see blackface.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.