Midnight Special

TITLE: Midnight Special
AUTHOR: Unknown
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Traditional
KEYWORDS: prison, hard times, warning, crime, police, train
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: Sodarissa Miller, Silvertone Records, August 1925.

Midnight SpecialAccording to Alan Lomax, the Midnight Special was a real train: the Southern Pacific Golden Gate Limited. Leadbelly popularized the song upon his release from Sugar Land prison in Texas, where he could hear the Midnight Special come through. In the song, the light of the train gives the inmates hope – if it shines on them they take it as a sign they will soon go free. (from SongFacts

 

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Yonder Come Roberta
  • Prisoner’s Song

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: Odetta

Midnight Special

Yonder comes Miss Rosie,
How in the world do you know?
I can tell her by her apron
And the dress that she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder
A piece of paper in her hand
I heard her tell the captain
Turn loose my man

Let the midnight special
Shine it’s light me
Oh let the midnight special
Shine it’s everlasting light on me

When you get up in the morning
When that big bell rings
You go marching to the table
You see the same old thing
Knife & fork are on the table
Ain’t nothin in my pan
& you say a word about it
You get in trouble with the man

Let the midnight special
Shine it’s light me
Oh let the midnight special
Shine it’s everlasting light on me

If you ever go to Houston
Boy you’d better walk right
And you better not gamble
And you better not fight
Cuz Benson Crocker will arrest you
& Jimmy Boone will take you down
& you bet your bottom dollar
That your Sugarland bound

Let the midnight special
Shine it’s light me
Oh let the midnight special
Shine it’s everlasting light on me

Well, jumpin little Judy
She was a mighty fine gal
She brought jumpin
To the whole round world
Well, she brought it in the morning
Just awhile before day
Well, she brought me the news
That my wife was dead

Let the midnight special
Shine it’s light me
Oh let the midnight special
Shine it’s everlasting light on me

Let the midnight special
Shine it’s light me
Oh let the midnight special
Shine it’s everlasting light on me

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
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—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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