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Ol' Man River

Original lyrics printed here are based upon those from the libretto for the recording of Jerome Kern's Show Boat, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Hayes Middlesex England: EMI Records Lmtd.1988.

Robeson's changes are based upon the Exhibition Catalog, Paul Robeson: Bearer of a Culture. New York: The Paul Robeson Foundation, 1998.

 Original Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Revised Lyrics by Paul Robeson

Dere's an ol' man called de Mississippi;
Dat's de ol' man dat I'd like to be!
What does he care if de world's got troubles?
What does he care if de land ain't free?
Ol' Man River,
Dat Ol' Man River
He mus' know sumpin' But don't say nuthin',
He jes' keeps rollin',
He keeps on rollin' along.
He don't plant taters,
He don't plant cotton,
An' dem dat plants 'em
Is soon forgotten,
But Ol' Man River,
He jes' keeps rollin' along
You an' me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin' an' racked wid pain -
Tote dat barge!
Lif' dat bale!
Git a little drunk,
An' you land in jail...
Ah gits weary
An' sick of tryin';
Ah'm tired of livin'
An skeered of dyin',
But Ol' Man River,
He jes' keeps rollin' along

There's an ol' man called de Mississippi;
That's the ol' man I don't like to be!
What does he care if the world's got troubles?
What does he care if the land ain't free..
Ol' Man River,
That Ol' Man River
He mus' know sumpin' But don't say nuthin',
He jes' keeps rollin',
He keeps on rollin' along.
He don't plant taters,
He don't plant cotton,
An' dem dat plants 'em
Is soon forgotten,
But Ol' Man River,
He jes' keeps rollin' along
You an' me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin' an' racked wid pain -
Tote that barge and
Lift that bale,
You show a little grit and
You lands in jail...
But I keeps laffin' instead of cyrin'
I must keep fightin';
Until I'm dyin'
And Ol' Man River,
He just keeps rollin' along