Pick a Bale of Cotton

TITLE: Pick a Bale of Cotton
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS:  work, farming, bragging
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1933 (recording, James “Iron Head” Baker & group)

SOME CONSIDER THIS SONG OFFENSIVE 
2959095477_48691ef7acFirst collected by Alan Lomax from prison farms in Texas, this is a boastful song about picking an impossibly large quantity of cotton (a bale is about a quarter of a ton). Many people now consider it politically incorrect to sing this song at all because of its associations with slavery.  BUT Pete Seeger has argued that it would have been sung fairly slowly as a work song if it was actually sung by the slaves on the cotton fields, so it is quite likely that it does not actually go back to those times. The version that we know today comes mainly from the singing of Lead Belly, who called it a “play-party” song, and has been carried on by singers such as Harry Belafonte, Odetta and the great blues duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.” 

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: Ticinum Gospel Choir

Pick a Bale of Cotton

Gonna jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna jump down, turn around to pick a bale a day.
Gonna jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna jump down, turn around to pick a bale a day.

Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

Gonna get on my knees, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna get on my knees, pick a bale a day.
Gonna get on my knees, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna get on my knees, pick a bale a day.

Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

Gonna jump, jump, jump down, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna jump, jump, jump down, pick a bale a day.
Gonna jump, jump, jump down, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna jump, jump, jump down, pick a bale a day.

Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

Me and my gal can pick a bale of cotton,
Me and my gal can pick a bale a day.
Me and my gal can pick a bale of cotton,
Me and my gal can pick a bale a day.

Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

Me and my buddy can pick a bale of cotton,
Me and my buddy can pick a bale a day.
Me and my buddy can pick a bale of cotton,
Me and my buddy can pick a bale a day.

Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

Gonna picka, picka, picka, picka, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna picka, picka, picka, picka, pick a bale a day.
Gonna picka, picka, picka, picka, pick a bale of cotton,
Gonna picka, picka, picka, picka, pick a bale a day.

Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.
Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day.

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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