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Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)

DigiTrad:
BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS
BRENDAN'S FAIRE ISLE
LONG CHAIN ON
RAZORBACK STEAK
SAINT BRENDAN'S VOYAGE


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Naemanson 05 Oct 00 - 09:24 AM
Allan C. 05 Oct 00 - 10:37 AM
rangeroger 05 Oct 00 - 10:16 PM
Naemanson 17 Oct 01 - 02:53 PM
GUEST,Arkie 17 Oct 01 - 04:08 PM
Stewie 17 Oct 01 - 06:29 PM
GUEST,Adri 17 Oct 01 - 06:35 PM
Naemanson 17 Oct 01 - 10:58 PM
Franz S. 18 Oct 01 - 09:24 PM
Naemanson 17 Nov 07 - 06:05 PM
SouthernCelt 24 Nov 07 - 09:19 AM
Peace 25 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM
Joe Offer 25 Nov 07 - 02:54 AM
SouthernCelt 25 Nov 07 - 07:20 PM
GUEST,Waltham21j 16 Nov 08 - 09:49 PM
SouthernCelt 17 Nov 08 - 08:39 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 10 - 02:27 AM
Amos 07 Mar 10 - 03:03 AM
Arkie 14 Jul 12 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Barry 14 Sep 16 - 02:57 PM
GUEST 31 Oct 18 - 09:37 PM
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Subject: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Naemanson
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:24 AM

This song has been with me from my earliest days. I learned it from the Peter Paul & Mary records we used to listen to while doing the dishes after supper. It doesn't lend itself well to unaccompanied voice because it has that long gap that is supposed to be filled with an instrument. So, if anyone knows what they are I would appreciate having the chords.

I did a DT and forum search. I found out from those searches that Jimmy Driftwood wrote He Had a Long Chain On but I don't know anything else about it.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Allan C.
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 10:37 AM

You can approximate the PP&M version by simply alternating Am and Dm where needed.

However, I have heard a wonderful version which uses a traditioal blues progression. Perhaps someone else can supply those chords.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: rangeroger
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 10:16 PM

I play Em and Am with 7ths added during the bridge between verses.

This song has always had a great deal of meaning for me.Before I was a park ranger I was a Deputy Probation Officer in San Diego County.The Probation Department administered the rural adult detention facilites, the Honor Camps.These were minimum security facilities where I was basically a corrections officer.

Whenever an inmate had to be reclassified back to the main County jail whether for disciplinary or administrative reasons, we were required to place that person in full restraint gear.Belly chains with handcuffs and leg irons on the ankles. I have never had to do a job that so dehumanized and degraded a human being.Because of that I became very good at placing those restraints on a person as I wanted it to be done as quickly and safely as possible.

Every time I did it, this song echoed in my mind.

I also used to take my guitar to work with me and would invariably sing this song while picking with or singing for the inmates.

rr


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 02:53 PM

I almost started a new thread with this same question! I had forgotten I already had asked this question. Good thing I did a search first.

Does anyone know anything about this song? Is it traditional or recent? Where does it come from?


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 04:08 PM

It is claimed by Jimmy Driftwood who holds a copyright on the song, but I know of nothing else. Jimmy gave no background on the song the times I heard him perform it. I am not sure what the state the Jimmy Driftwood collection is in at the University of Central Arkansas. I will check on that.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Stewie
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 06:29 PM

The note by Driftwood in the booklet accompanying the Bear Family boxed set of his recordings 'Americana' BCD 15465 is as follows:

HE HAD A LONG CHAIN ON
At the beginning of the Civil War the men in Arkansas where I live, Searcy and later Stone Counties, said they would not fight against the U.S. Government, neither would they fight against their friends in the South. They were rounded up and captured by the southern army and marched away to Little Rock in chains. I was told there were 100 of them and the odd man just wore a ball and chain whereas the other 99 were chained in three's. The man with the ball and chain got into the thick willows in a creek near my home and got away according to legend. He never was captured nor would he ever let the welded chain be cut off his body. Wherever I have sung this song, there have been differences of opinion as to its meaning. Alan Lomax thinks this is one of the greatest songs he has ever heard and he said, "Let each individual interpret it for himself." JD --Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: GUEST,Adri
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 06:35 PM

I have a version of this song that is on the cd Oh boy!o boy! by Tim O'Brien. I haven't played the song yet myself on my guitar, so I can't give the chords I would play, but this version is very nice.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 10:58 PM

I have always had a spiritual interpretation. The man in the chain is Jesus chained by the evil that people do in His name.


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Subject: RE: Chords Req: Long Chain On
From: Franz S.
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 09:24 PM

Can't help with chords, but isn't this connected to "Another Man Done Gone"?


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Subject: ADD Lyr/Chords: Long Chain On
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 06:05 PM

Here's what I found about a month ago.

LONG CHAIN ON
(Jimmie Driftwood}


[Em]One night as I [Am]lay on my [Em]pillow,
[Am]moonlight as bright as the [Em]dawn,
[Em]I saw a [Am]man come a-[Em]walking,
[Am]He had a long chain [Em]on.

[Em]I heard his [Am]chains a-[Em]clanking,
[Am]They made a mournful [Em]sound,
[Em]Welded aro[Am]und his [Em]body,
[Am]Dragging along the [Em]ground.

Chorus:
[Em]He had a long chain on,
[Em]He had a long chain on,
[Em]He had a long chain [Am]on.   [Em]

He stood beside my window,
He looked at me and he said,
"I am so tired and hungry,
Give me a bite of your bread."

He didn't look like a robber,
He didn't look like a thief.
His voice was as soft as the moonlight,
A face full of sorrow and grief.

Chorus:

I went into my kitchen,
fetched him a bowl full of meat,
A drink and a pan of cold biscuits,
That's what I gave him to eat.

Though he was tired and hungry,
A bright light came over his face.
He bowed his head in the moonlight,
He said a beautiful grace.

Chorus:

I got my hammer and chisel,
Offered to set him free.
He looked at me and said softly,
"I guess we had best let it be."

When he had finished his supper,
He thanked me again and again.
Though it's been years since I've seen him,
Still hear him draggin' his chain.^^^
    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Origins: 'Long Chain On' lyric credits
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 09:19 AM

I've recently been getting into Robert Earl Keen, Jr.'s music and on one of his early albums he does "Long Chain On". The album credits the songwriter Jimmy Driftwood for the song. I've not researched Driftwood's career but I know he also wrote "Battle of New Orleans" made famous and an airplay hit by Johnny Horton back in the late 50s. Someone probably needs to add the lyric credit for "Long Chain On" to Driftwood in the database.

Love that song by the way. (I'm a fan of things with a sort of gothic, mysterious flavor.)

SC


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Long Chain On' lyric credits
From: Peace
Date: 25 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM

http://www.azchords.com/d/driftwoodjimmy-tabs-6463/longchainon-tabs-136426.html


Lyrics and chords there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Long Chain On' lyric credits
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Nov 07 - 02:54 AM

Peter, Paul and Mary credit it to Jimmie Driftwood, as does the Bear Family Jimmie Driftwood box set, Americana Driftwood recorded the song on January 13, 1960.
Stewie posted the song notes from the box set up above. From Driftwood's wording, you could almost think that it came from tradition or from another songwriter. Many of Driftwood's songs were updates of earlier traditional songs - but my guess is that this one is a Driftwood original.
-Joe-
Here's what I hear on the recording - just slightly different from the Peter, Paul and Mary version:

LONG CHAIN ON
(Jimmie Driftwood)

One night as I lay on my pillow,
Moonlight as bright as the dawn,
I saw a man a-walking,
He had a long chain on.
I heard his chain a-clankin',
It made a mournful sound,
Welded around his body,
Draggin' along the ground.

Chorus:
He had a long chain on
He had a long chain on
He had a long chain on

He stood beside my window,
He looked at me and he said,
"I am so tired and hungry,
Give me a bite of your bread."
He didn't look like a robber,
He didn't look like a thief;
His voice was as soft as the moonlight,
His face full of sorrow and grief.

(Chorus)

I went into my kitchen,
Got him a bowl full of meat;
A drink and a pan of cold biscuits,
That's what I gave him to eat.
Though he was tired and hungry,
A bright light came over his face;
He bowed his head in the moonlight,
He said a beautiful grace.

(Chorus)

I fetched my hammer and chisel,
Offered to set him free;
He shook his head and said sadly,
"I guess we had best let it be."
When he had finished his supper,
He thanked me again and again.
Though it's been years since I saw him,
I still hear him draggin' his chain.

(Chorus)


Transcribed by ear from the Jimmie Driftwood Americana box set (Bear Family Records)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Long Chain On' lyric credits
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 25 Nov 07 - 07:20 PM

It's interesting that Driftwood's version is in minors as apparently is PP&M's. (I thought I'd heard all their stuff but I don't remember this one.) Although I haven't tried to play along with Keen's version, the chords don't sound minor to me. I worked out my own somewhat bluesy version using Keen's version as a model in D & G with a little variation in the D for the break/turnaround. If anyone wants to hear a quick 'n dirty recording of my version of this, PM me and I'll send the link to a hidden web page where you can stream or download the mp3 for later. (Since this one and another on the same page are copyrighted, I don't want someone trying to accuse me of publishing stolen material. This is solely for discussion.)

SC


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: GUEST,Waltham21j
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 09:49 PM

He bowed his head on his bosom,not in the moonlight.His voice was as soft as the moonlight.

    Hi - I listened to both Jimmie Driftwood and Peter, Paul and Mary. Both say "he bowed his head in the moonlight." Whose recording has "bosom"?
    -Joe Offer, Forum Moderator-


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 08:39 AM

Joe, Robert Earl Keen's version says "bosom" which makes sense since you lower your chin to your upper chest when the head is bowed. Also Keen says "His face was all covered in sadness / His voice full of sorrow and grief" in place of the last two lines of the second verse shown above.

SC


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 02:27 AM

Jimmy Driftwood a teacher wrote many of his songs about important events in history and gave his students musical lessons. I believe that this song is about the underground railway often led by Harriot Tubman. The slaves had chains, moved at night in moonlight and hid in daylight. Food was scarce and those that housed or fed them were at great legal risk and the slaves knew it. The song was done by Odetta and PP&M, I love to play and sing it.
Dave Wallerstedt


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftw
From: Amos
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 03:03 AM

It reads like a straight derivation from Leadbelly's "Another Man Done Gone". Anyone know about the connections?


A


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: Arkie
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 02:07 PM

This is without question my favorite of Jimmy's songs and would agree with Lomax that it is the best of jimmy's catalog. My favorite version of the song is done by Peter Yarrow, Bethany Yarrow, and Rufus. Second favorite is by Robert Earl Keen. Appreciate Stewie's posting from the Bear catalog. I did not read the notes when I had the chance.


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: GUEST,Barry
Date: 14 Sep 16 - 02:57 PM

I think the long chain is metaphor, a physical burden resulting from the sins a man committed in this life. A similar imagery is used in A Christmas Carol when Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge and tells he wears the chain he forged in life, link by link, yard by yard, for the sins he committed in life of greed, and that the chain they are preparing for Scrooge is much longer.


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Subject: RE: Origins: He Had a Long Chain On (Jimmie Driftwood)
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 09:37 PM

Only one person mentioned Odetta!

It was Odetta's recording, live in performance,
that introduced me to this song.

Her version is extremely spare. Just her and her six-string guitar.
In between verses she just alternates two chords on the guitar,
using some of that rhythmic touch she learned from Libba Cotten.

In terms of chords in a minor key,
the chords would be iv - i - iv - i.
Odetta, as well, sings,
"He bowed his head in the moonlight."

I believe this album is Odetta Live at Town Hall.


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