Audio

Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti

Time Periods: 20th Century, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: Art & Music

SaccoandVanzettiBalladsWoody Guthrie was one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets and songwriters, and his songs about Sacco and Vanzetti include some of his best songs. The murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti was one of this century’s most controversial. Sacco and Vanzetti’s story was dramatic; their front-page trial was filled with dubious procedures; and the years of appeals and their eventual execution led to protests around the world.

These songs, written and recorded nearly twenty years later, have been carefully remastered from the original acetate discs and are presented with a previously unpublished letter by Guthrie to the judge in the case. Produced by Moses Asch. Reissue compiled by Anthony Seeger and Jeff Place. [Publisher’s description.]

Here are the lyrics to one of the songs:

Two Good Men
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

Two good men a long time gone,
Two good men a long time gone
(Two good men a long time gone, oh, gone),
Sacco, Vanzetti a long time gone,
Left me here to sing this song.

Say, there, did you hear the news?
Sacco worked at trimming shoes;
Vanzetti was a peddling man,
Pushed his fish cart with his hands.

Sacco was born across the sea
Somewhere over in Italy;
Vanzetti was born of parents fine,
Drank the best Italian wine.

Sacco sailed the sea one day,
Landed up in Boston Bay;
Vanzetti sailed the ocean blue,
Landed up in Boston, too.

Sacco’s wife three children had,
Sacco was a family man;
Vanzetti was a dreaming man,
His book was always in his hand.

Sacco earned his bread and butter
Being the factory’s best shoe cutter;
Vanzetti spoke both day and night,
Told the workers how to fight.

I’ll tell you if you ask me
‘Bout this payroll robbery;
Two clerks was killed by the shoe factory
On the street in South Braintree.

Judge Thayer told his friends around
He would cut the radicals down;
Anarchist bastards was the name
Judge Thayer called these two good men.

I’ll tell you the prosecutors’ names,
Katsman, Adams, Williams, Kane;
The judge and lawyers strutted down,
They done more tricks than circus clowns.

Vanzetti docked here in 1908;
He slept along the dirty streets,
He told the workers “Organize”
And on the electric chair he dies.

All you people ought to be like me,
And work like Sacco and Vanzetti;
And every day find some ways to fight
On the union side for workers’ rights.

I’ve got no time to tell this tale,
The dicks and bulls are on my trail;
But I’ll remember these two good men
That died to show me how to live.

All you people in Suassos Lane
Sing this song and sing it plain.
All you folks that’s coming along,
Jump in with me, and sing this song.

© Woody Guthrie

Published by Smithsonian Folkways | More information.