Monday, 15 September 2008

Banks of Marble

Les Rice doesn’t appear on Wikipedia and if you Google his name the top search results come back with ‘the best tattooist in Sydney’, who may well be a great guy but isn’t the one I have in mind. Back in the 1940s, though, the Les Rice I’m referring to wrote a song that’s worth revisiting today in the light of the bankers’ greed that has been bringing half the world’s economy to its knees.

Pete Seeger recorded the song, ‘Banks of Marble’, on at least two albums; and in a note in one of his songbooks he wrote that Rice ‘farms across the Hudson from me, near Newburgh [Orange County, New York]. Like most small farmers, he was getting intolerably squeezed by the big companies which sold him all his fertiliser, insecticide and equipment, and the big companies that dictated to him the prices he would get for his produce. Out of that squeeze came this song.’

I've travelled round this country
From shore to shining shore.
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw.

I saw the weary farmer,
Ploughing sod and loam;
I heard the auction hammer
A-knocking down his home.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for.

I saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore.
I heard the bosses saying:
'Got no work for you no more'.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for.

I saw the weary miner,
Scrubbing coal dust from his back;
I heard his children cryin':
'Got no coal to heat the shack'.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for.

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land;
I prayed we'd get together,
And together make a stand.

Then we'd own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door;
And we'd share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for.

2 comments:

@lvaro said...

Hello
Please forgive my bad english
I was just looking for some information about Les Rice, and google led me to your blog.

I completely agree with you. It's always the worker, the middle class man who can barely pay the bills the one, who has to pay for all the wrongs the rich man has done.
Here in Spain the goverment has just announced welfare cuts in order to face the economical crisis. It's always the same, whether you live Europe or in the USA.

Pray someday the Banks pay for all their mistakes and misdoings.

Keep working it!
Best wishes from Spain.

Presto said...

Thanks for posting the entire lyrics to this song (other sites consistently seem to leave out the "seaman" verse), and properly attributing it to Les Rice, rather than Pete Seeger, Iris DeMent, or others who've recorded it.