Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Hand on the Plow)

TITLE: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Hand on the Plow)
AUTHORunknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: Bible, religious, prison
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1917 (Cecil Sharp collection)
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Adapted for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1950’s.

Martin Luther King mugshotBased on the classic hymn “Hold On” (a.k.a. “Gospel Plow”), this song’s exact origins are unknown. However, it was adapted for the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s by an activist named Alice Wine. Wine added verses and changed some lyrics to adapt it specifically to the plight of Civil Rights activists.

As it was adapted from an old spiritual song about continuing despite adversity, the lyrics of “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” allude to many passages from the Bible. The lyrics are about transcending oppression and persevering despite any struggle or obstacles that may arise in one’s path. (from About.com Folk Music)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Hold On
  • Keep Your Hand on the Plow

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Bruce Springsteen

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

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

Paul and Silas began to shout
The jail doors opened and they walked right out
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The only thing we did wrong,
was staying in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The one thing we did right,
was the day we began to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

We’re gonna board that big Greyhound,
carryin’ 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

We’re gonna ride for civil rights,
we’re gonna ride both black and white
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon, Storyville Publications and Company, London Revised 1969.

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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