On the Line (On the Picket Line)

TITLE: On the Line
AUTHOR: Words: Margaret Larkin, Music: “Polly Wolly Doodle”
CATEGORY: author known, public domain
KEYWORDS: protest, union
EARLIEST DATE: 1926
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The 1926 Passaic Textile Strike was a work stoppage by over 15,000 woolen mill workers in and around Passaic, New Jersey over wage issues in several factories in the vicinity. The strike began on January 25, 1926 and officially ended only on March 1, 1927. (wikipedia)

300px-Passaic-white-house-picket-1926During that strike there had been noisy, continuous picketing, and hundreds, sometimes thousands, of workers paraded through town and in front of the mills, trying to prevent scabs from crossing the picket line. Police were kept busy arresting strikers, many of whom spent a night or two in jail. 

Margaret Larkin, a writer who was sympathetic to the strikers’ cause, observed the picket-line activity firsthand. One day she sat down on a park bench and scribbled some lines to the tune of “Polly Wolly Doodle.” It became one of the most popular union songs. I have sung it at a hundred union rallies and meetings.

Note that despite the large number of women working in Passaic textile plants and on picket lines there, the song refers only to male strikers. And it was written by a woman! (from Joe Glazer’s Labor’s Troubadour (Music in American Life)

RECORDINGS:

  • On the Picket Line
  • On the Picket Line Song

RECORDINGS:

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 


YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download

On the Line 

The union is the place for me,
The place for working men
Who want some time to sing and play
And money they can spend.

On the line (on the line)
On the line (on the line)
Come and picket on the picket line.
We’ll win our fight, our fight for the right
On the picket, picket line.

If you’ve never spent a night in jail
Come and picket on the picket line.
You’ll be invited without fail
On the picket, picket line.

On the line (on the line)
On the line (on the line)
Come and picket on the picket line.
We’ll win our fight, our fight for the right
On the picket, picket line.

I am a union man because
I want a living wage.
We’ll stick together, we’ll fight together
We’ll get that living wage.

On the line (on the line)
On the line (on the line)
Come and picket on the picket line.
We’ll win our fight, our fight for the right
On the picket, picket line.

SOURCES:

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

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: