PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN

Album's version

I thought I heard the captain say
Pay me my money down
Tomorrow is our sailing day
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Soon as the boat was clear of the bar
Pay me money down
He knocked me down with a spar
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Com'on!

Well if I'd been a rich man's son
Pay me my money down
I'd sit on the river and watch 'er run
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Horn!

Lets hear the trumpet!

Alright everybody,
Let's bring it up to B flat
A one two three!

Well I wish I was Mr Gates
Pay me my money down
They'd haul my money in in crates
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Alright somebody
Yello!
Yip!
Woha!
Go!
Come on!

Trumpet!
Once more trumpet!
Woah!

Alright now!
Back to G
A one two, a one two three
Yeah!

Well fourty nights, nights at sea
Pay me my money down
Captain worked every last dollar out of me
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Everybody solo!

Woah!
Woah!
Woah!


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.

The in-studio performance of the song is included on the DVD side of the DualDisc 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. Some comments from the people who listened to the rehearsals:

  • "[Bruce] worked on the beginning with Soozie and Lisa Lowell signing some vocals. Song highlights a lot of different instruments. There was a violin solo, a trumpet solo and LaBamba had a trombone solo. The horns really shine on this song." [20 Mar]
  • "A lot of fun also. Again, I think this may be the song Bruce closes the main set with. There was a tuba solo at one point. At the end he said, 'Thank you very much ladies and gentleman!', and even threw in a 'The June Taylor Dancers!', a reference to the dancers on the Jackie Gleason Show. He then said, 'Thank you. It was a fabulous week!'." [07 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.

This is the only song on We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions that has not been recorded by Pete Seeger. However, the song was performed live by The Weavers on their 1955 Christmas eve concert at Carnegie Hall, with Pete Seeger on lead vocals, and the recording was released in 1957 on The Weavers At Carnegie Hall.

Traditional west Indian Sea shanty dating from the 19th century. It exists in several versions. Check out Dave Marsh's liner notes below for more details.

The above lyrics refer to Bruce's album's version. Check also the traditional version.

Thanks Karin and Mario for the lyrics help.


Dave Marsh's liner notes about PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN:

A much more rousing sea chantey. "Pay Me" originated as a protest song of the black stevedores in Georgia and South Carolina ports. Unscrupulous ship captains would often insist that their ships be loaded or unloaded upon arrival, then try to pay the workers the next day. That night, they'd slip out of the harbor, stiffing the stevedores. The song then got picked up by other sailors, who created verses about daily life on the ship and the longing for shore leave. The song circulated widely with a calypso rhythm, often described as a Bahamian or West Indian folk song, which is the mode in which the Kingston Trio did their popular folk revival version in 1958. Dan Zanes recently had a children's hit with "Pay Me" in calypso style.

The song was collected by Lydia Parrish, wife of painter Maxfield Parrish, in her book, Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands. Parrish was not the writer (nor could a song in which black workers demanded to be paid emerge from the slave era), but she obtained the copyright by publishing the song first, as was the habit of folklorists until recently. Parris helped give a better sense of what the song might have initially sounded like by helping establish the great Georgia Sea Island Singers. (The Georgia Sea Islands were largely populated by escaped slaves, and the music and other culture of the area is especially important because it has many more African retentions than anything on the U.S. mainland.)

Pete Seeger recorded "Pay Me My Money Down" with the Weavers; it's available on The Weavers at Carnegie Hall and the Weavers' box set, Wasn't That a Time!