The Preacher and the Slave

Preacher Joseph_Williamson haunting Cable Street E1 circa 1950

Preacher Joseph_Williamson haunting Cable Street E1 circa 1950

* The photo above is something of a mystery, apparently showing Father Joseph Williamson preaching outdoors in Cable Street, his son holding the cross. At the time the street was famous for Nigerian, Ghanaian and Maltese cafes, bars and brothels. “In recent years evil and unscrupulous men have moved in with their all-night cafes and their brothels making life hell for for the decent people who have to bring up children in the midst of all these horrors,” wrote Joseph Williamson. There’s plenty online about Father Joe, but I’d love to hear more about this scene from other perspectives.

“The Preacher and the Slave” is a song written by Joe Hill in 1911. It was written as a parody of the hymn “In the Sweet By-and-By”. The Industrial Workers of the World (commonly known as the Wobblies) concentrated much of its labor trying to organize migrant workers in lumber and construction camps. When the workers returned to the cities, the Wobblies faced the Salvation Army (which they satirized as the “Starvation Army”).[1] Hill had first encountered the Salvation Army in Sweden when he was a child.[2]

Lyrics and chords

 Verse #1:
 G                          C         G
 Long-haired preachers come out every night 
 G                                       D      
         
 Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right
 G                        C            G
 But when asked how 'bout something to eat 
 G                   D         G
 They will answer in voices so sweet

 Chorus Type #1:
 G                     C 
 You will eat, bye and bye
 G                               D
 In that glorious land above the sky 
 G                      C
 Work and pray, live on hay 
 G                     D            G
 You'll get pie in the sky when you die

 Verse #2:
 G                  C          G
 And the Starvation Army, they play 
 G                                    D
 And they sing and they clap and they pray 
 G                      C           G
 Till they get all your coin on the drum 
 G                       D             G
 Then they tell you when you're on the bum

 Chorus Type #1

 Verse #3:
 G                C            G
 Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out 
 G                                   D 
 And they holler, they jump and they shout 
 G                  C           G
 Give your money to Jesus, they say 
 G                  D        G      
 He will cure all diseases today

 Chorus Type #1

 Verse #4:
 G                     C            G
 If you fight hard for children and wife
 G                                 D
 Try to get something good in this life 
 G                   C             G
 You're a sinner and bad man, they tell 
 G                     D          G
 When you die you will sure go to hell.

 Chorus Type #1

 Verse #5:
 G                 C           G
 Workingmen of all countries, unite 
 G                                D
 Side by side we for freedom will fight 
 G                      C              G
 When the world and its wealth we have gained 
 G                     D           G
 To the grafters we'll sing this refrain

 Chorus Type #2: 
 G                     C
 You will eat, bye and bye 
 G                                          D
 When you've learned how to cook and how to fry 
 G                             C
 Chop some wood, 'twill do you good 
 G                      D             G
 Then you'll eat in
the sweet bye and bye 

The chorus is sung in a call and response pattern.

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]In that glorious land above the sky [Way up high]Work and pray [Work and pray] live on hay [live on hay]You’ll get pie in the sky when you die [That’s a lie!]

Thus the final verse becomes

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]When you’ve learned how to cook and how to fry [How to fry]Chop some wood [Chop some wood], ’twill do you good [do you good]Then you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye [That’s no lie]

The fourth verse is not normally sung today, probably because of the reference to “children and wife” not being gender-neutral[according to whom?]. Other variations include changing the second line of the chorus to “In that glorious land up in the sky” and the last line of the third verse to “And you will eat on that glorious day.” Workingmen is normally changed to working folks, as well. The above lyrics are from the 19th edition of the Little Red Songbook.

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