LIFEBELT WASHED UP ON THE SHORE

(WOODY GUTHRIE) (1940s)


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Lyrics as reprinted in Pete Seeger (ed.), Woody Guthrie Folk Songs, London, 1973, pp. 237-238.
1963 Ludlow Music Inc., New York, NY


I walked on my beach sand here today
Before the crowd comes down to swim and play;
I see a raggedy bundle colored blue and gray,
'Twas a life belt washed up from the sea.
CHORUS:
Just a life belt washed up on the shore:
You've been drifting in the sea a year or more;
Your strings and cords are tied and you move like a man alive
You're just a lifebelt washed up on the shore.
Did they catch you out cleeping [SIC] on the deck?
Did they trap you down in that engine room?
Did they strangle you in oil or did they burn you in the fire?
You're a lifebelt, you can't hear my words.

Did they get you on the bridge or in the hatch?
Was it London? Gibralter [SIC]? or Murmansk?
Pretty warm green South Pacific, or the icy North Atlantic?
But a lifebelt can't say Yes or No.

CHORUS
Was you a G.I. or maybe a Merchant Marine?
Brasshat? Bozun [SIC]? Cook? Or keep machines?
In the dark or in the light, was it daytime, was it night?
You're just a lifebelt, you haven't said a thing.

Did you drift here to see what's going on?
How the big wheel's running little wheels at home?
About a workjob or just whistling at a girly splashing past?
But an empty lifebelt can't talk like a man.

CHORUS
Well, the sun's hot and folks come walking down;
They swim here from a hundred towns around;
I will pull you from the water and I'll drop you on the sand.
You're a lifebelt, you'll mumble not a word.

Lots of swimmers are poor, but a few are rich.
In their swim suits I can't tell you which is which,
Now the life guard picks you up and he drops you in a trash can,
And your folks never did know that you made it home.

CHORUS


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