EYES ON THE PRIZE

Album's version

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Paul and Silas thought they was lost
Dungeon shook and the chains come off
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Freedom's name is mighty sweet
And soon we're gonna meet
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

I got my hand on the gospel plow
Won't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Soozie!

Only chain that a man can stand
Is that chain o' hand on hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

I'm gonna board that big greyhound
Carry the love from town to town
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hey!

Hey!

Now only thing I did was wrong
Stayin' in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The only thing we did was right
Was the day we started to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

One, two!
(The only thing we did was wrong)
(Staying in the wilderness too long)
(Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on)

Woah, woah!
(The only thing we did was right)
(Was the day we started to fight)
(Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on)

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Ain't been to heaven but I been told
Streets up there are paved with gold


Bruce Springsteen recorded this traditional song with The Seeger Sessions Band during the "Seeger Sessions". The song is included on Bruce's 2006 cover album, We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions.

The Seeger Sessions consist of three recording sessions (a 2-days session on 01 and 02 Nov 1997, a 1-day session in Dec 2005, and a 1-day session in Jan 2006), during which all the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Bruce's New Jersey farmhouse. The songs were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted as Bruce and the band played. It is not clear during which one of the 3 sessions this song was recorded.

The above lyrics refer to Bruce's version from the We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions album.

This song was reported to be rehearsed for the Seeger Sessions tour by Bruce Springsteen with his Seeger Sessions Band on 20 and 21 Mar and 06 and 07 Apr 2006 at the Paramount Theater, Asbury Park, NJ, and 12 Apr 2006 at the Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ. Some comments from the people who listened to the rehearsals:

  • "More solos from the horn section. Also some nice parts, especially at the end, from the backup singers. Bruce worked on the ending one more time." [06 Apr]
  • "A nice ballad." [12 Apr]

Played during all 4 public rehearsal shows for The Seeger Sessions tour -- 20, 24, 25, and 26 Apr 2006 at the Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ.

The song was also played on 30 Apr 2006 at New Orleans Fair Grounds, New Orleans, LA, when Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band closed the first weekend of the New Orelans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

BlondieBorn2Run from Greasy Lake wrote: "This song is brilliant live, really smoky bluesy protest music."

Pete Seeger, to whom the above album is dedicated, has recorded EYES ON THE PRIZE live with the SNCC Freedom Singers at his 1963 Carnegie Hall concert. It can now be found on:

  • We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Recording June 8, 1963 (1989 - Columbia 45312)
  • A Link In The Chain (1996 - Columbia/Legacy C2K 64772A).

Lyrics attributed to civil rights activist Alice Wine. This was originally an early-20th century Civil Rights song called "Keep Your Hands On The Plow, Hold On" (or "Gospel Plow"). In 1956, Alice Wine reworked the lyrics and renamed the song to become "Eyes On the Prize". Check out Dave Marsh's liner notes below for more details.

Thanks Bob and BlondieBorn2Run from Greasy Lake for the lyrics corrections.


Dave Marsh's liner notes about EYES ON THE PRIZE:

A Holiness hymn also known as "Gospel Plow," "Paul and Silas," "Keep Your Hand on the Plow," and "Hold On." Although it was composed well before World War I, the contemporary version done here was written by civil rights activist Alice Wine in 1956. Wine graduated from one of the first voter education school on John's Island, South Carolina, a project that helped initiate the Southern civil rights movement.

"Eyes on the Prize" proved specially meaningful for the freedom riders and the sit-in students, who faced long spells of being "bound in jail," up to and including Mississippi's notoriously brutal Parchman Prison farm.

The Biblical basis for the original lyric, "keep your hand on the plow," is Luke 9:62 in which Jesus says, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God," and 1 Corinthians 9:10 where Saint Paul writes, "For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." "Eyes on the prize" derives from Paul, who twice describes the struggle for salvation as the fight for a prize--in the movement, the prize was freedom from the Jim Crow system of white supremacy.

Like "O Mary Don't You Weep," "Eyes on the Prize" uses many "floating verse," that are found in other gospel songs and spirituals. Thus, the song ranges across the Bible, Old Testament and New. The unique part of the song's lyric is reference to Paul and Silas, who were imprisoned in Phillipi in 49 A.D. for casting a demon out of an enslaved fortune teller, thus robbing her owner. (Acts 16:11-40) As much as any song except perhaps the spiritual "O Freedom," "Eyes on the Prize" seems in many ways custom built for the civil rights movement.

Recordings of "Eyes on the Prize" are not numerous but some are extraordinary, particularly the version Mahalia Jackson performed, as "Keep Your Hand on the Plow," with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958. Bob Dylan sings it as "Gospel Plow" on his 1962 debut album but without any movement lyrics. Robert Moses can be heard as song leader at a mass movement on the album Sing for Freedom: Civil Rights Movement Songs. Pete Seeger recorded it live with the SNCC Freedom Singers at his 1963 Carnegie Hall concert, released as We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert, and also included on the Link in the Chain anthology.