About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending - Work Songs for Labor Day

For our Sunday Singalong this week (and I apologize for the omission of the last couple of weeks . . . we were on the road & I just had no energy to do much blogging), I thought we should recognize the holiday weekend: Labor is our theme. Know any work songs? Or songs about particular professions? Or just about working in general?

Share a song about this topic - a verse and chorus, all the lyrics, a link to lyrics, MP3, or download, or just tell us the title and reason it is a special song in your mind. Our ancestors sang about their jobs a great deal, even when some of those jobs were pretty rough and one would think they would prefer to forget them after a long day's work. I can think of songs about railroading, farming, whaling, and others. Personally, I have a fondness for songs about mining, and a particular appreciation for the song "Sully's Pail," about a coal miner who gave his life for his friend and work companion. It was written by Dick Gibbons (originally incorrectly written as Dick Giddons) and was recorded by Tom Paxton back in the 1960s on his album Ain't That News (now available on CD). I sing it as he did: a capella. It is one of those songs that, when you hear it, it sticks with you.

The lyrics, along with the updates re: author, background, and terminology, are provided at To hear it sung, with Tom Paxton's tune, by ThreeLegsoman, check Youtube:

Or check Tom's recording of it at (purchasable download).

An interesting thread about this song, its misinterpretations, and past wrongs being righted is detailed at Mudcat Cafe:

Your turn! Celebrate Labor Day by sharing a song of labor!


  1. You can't have this type of post without including "I've been workin on the railroad". It used to be one of my favorites to sing when I was a kid and it is one that is still sung by children today. I love songs that the adults and the kids can sing together and that they both enjoy!

  2. Patty, I expected "Whistle While you Work" from you, but this would also be one I could see you coming up with! I try to leave the obvious ones for others!

  3. And from one old Mariner to the other, a sea Chantey, sung by sailors working on a ship! "The Mermaid"


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