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Origins:Strange/Mean Things Happening in This Land

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ROLL THE UNION ON


Dreaded Thumbpick 24 Apr 05 - 07:11 AM
Franz S. 24 Apr 05 - 12:08 PM
Franz S. 24 Apr 05 - 12:10 PM
Dreaded Thumbpick 24 Apr 05 - 01:39 PM
Jim Dixon 27 Apr 05 - 09:41 AM
Franz S. 28 Apr 05 - 11:56 AM
Joe Offer 08 Sep 14 - 06:17 AM
Joe Offer 09 Sep 14 - 04:23 AM
Joe Offer 09 Sep 14 - 04:56 AM
Joe Offer 09 Sep 14 - 05:43 AM
Mark Ross 09 Sep 14 - 12:36 PM
Jim Dixon 17 Sep 14 - 07:25 PM
Jim Dixon 18 Sep 14 - 12:41 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Mean Things Happening in this Land
From: Dreaded Thumbpick
Date: 24 Apr 05 - 07:11 AM

I have a set of lyrics for Mean Things but they are union oriented. Does anyone know if there is a set of political, non-union, lyrics.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THERE IS MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS...
From: Franz S.
Date: 24 Apr 05 - 12:08 PM

These lyrics are from Pete Seeger's "Gazette" album (Folkways, 1958):

THERE IS MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS LAND

1. There is mean things happening in this land;
There is mean things happening in this land.
Oh, the rich man boasts and brags,
While the poor man goes in rags,
There is mean things happening in this land.

2. There is mean things happening in this land,
There is mean things happening in this land,
Too much cotton in our sacks,
So we have none on our backs.
There is mean things happening in this land.

3. There is mean things happening in this land,
There is mean things happening in this land,
To much groceries on the shelves,
So we have none for ourselves,
There is mean things happening in this land.

REPEAT 1.

Since John Handcox, the author, was an organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union when he wrote this song, there were probably many more verses. This is almost a zipper song: add 2 lines and you have a whole new verse. H. L. Mitchell, founder of the Tenants' Union, used the song title for the title of his autobiography.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mean Things Happening in this Land
From: Franz S.
Date: 24 Apr 05 - 12:10 PM

Sandy Paton would know about this. Hope he sees this thread.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mean Things Happening in this Land
From: Dreaded Thumbpick
Date: 24 Apr 05 - 01:39 PM

Thanks very much. I found my recording of Handcox singing it but I didn't remember it was on GAZETTE. It's such a great title for our times.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mean Things Happening in This Land
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 27 Apr 05 - 09:41 AM

There seems to be a family of songs called "...MEAN THINGS HAPPENING..." or "...STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING..."

John Handcox's recording called THERE IS MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS LAND appears on "Field Recordings, Vols. 10-11," Document CD #5600, 1998; and on "Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left," Bear Family 10-CD set #15720, 1996. From a sound sample:
    ... in this land
    But the union's going on,
    And the union's growing strong.
    There is mean things happening in this land

    On the eighteenth day of May the union called a strike
    But planners [or "planters"?] and their bosses throwed the people out of their shack
    There is mean things happening in this land.
    There is mean things happening in this land....
Blind Joe Taggart recorded STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE LAND. It is on "Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1929-1934)," Document CD #5154, 1994. I listened to a sound sample, but I found it nearly all unintelligible (except for the refrain, which is also the title).

Charles Haffer Jr.'s recording of STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE LAND appears on an anthology of songs collected by Alan Lomax called "The Land Where the Blues Began," Rounder CD #1861, 2002.
    ...please let our vessels be.
    The Kaiser said to Wilson, "Keep your vessels off of the sea.
    If you put them on the stream,
    They'll meet my submarines."
    There's strange things happening in the land.

    The Kaiser kept on destroying every vessel he could see.
    Oh, he treated us so [mean?]....
Jazz pianist David Berkman recorded MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS WORLD. Authorship is credited to Woody Guthrie, C. Kenally, J. Kenally, and K. Kenally.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe wrote and recorded a lively gospel song called STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING EVERY DAY. Sleepy LaBeef and Rev. Cleophus Robinson also recorded it.
    ...You must learn to quit your lying.
    There are strange things happening every day.
    If you do right to the line
    You can live right all the time
    There are strange things happening every day....

    ...There are strange things happening every day.
    On that last great judgment day
    When they turn some folks away
    There are strange things happening every day.
    Oh, every day (every day), every day (every day),
    There are strange things happening every day.
    Oh, every day (every day)....
Etta James wrote and recorded STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING.
    ...Strange things happening every day.
    Oh, every day (every day), every day (every day),
    There are strange things happening every day.
    The love that you refuse
    Some other man can use.
    Strange things happening every day.

    You never miss your water until your well runs dry.
    Strange things happening every day.
    I won't be satisfied....
Percy Mayfield wrote and recorded a blues song called STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING. Chicken Shack, Junior Parker, Sonny Rhodes, and several others also recorded it.
    Learn to love me or leave me, either one you want to do. (2x)
    Because strange things is happening. Baby, something might happen to you.

    If you know you don't love me, why don't you let me be? (2x)
    Because it's better to be without you than to live in misery.

    Midnight caught me crying. Even daylight caught me crying, too....
Michelle Willson recorded STRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING EVERY DAY, which is credited to Elmore James. I think this is a mistake; it should be Etta James:
    ...I found me someone new.
    I'm really through with you.
    Strange things are happening every day....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mean Things Happening in This Land
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 Apr 05 - 11:56 AM

Except for the Percy Mayfield verse, all the citations by Jim appear to have these same pattern (fit the tune) that John Handcox used. So it seems likely that Handcox borrowed a tune and refrain that was already floating around. The World War I verse may have come about the same way. Bruce Phillips: "They took the hymns because they had the prettiest tunes, and changed the words so they made more sense."

I wish I had the resources to check the origins further.


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Subject: ADD: Mean Things Happening in This Land
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Sep 14 - 06:17 AM

Anybody have any idea who owns the rights to this and other songs by John Handcox? The editors of the Rise Again songbook would like to include it.
As far as I can tell, Handcox wrote the song in the late 1930s.

These are the lyrics Tom Juravich uses.

MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS LAND
(John Handcox)

There is mean things happening in this land
Mean things happening in this land
But the people are going on
The people are growing strong
There's mean things happening in this land

There is mean thing happening in this land
Mean things happening in this land
Children crying in the street
They ain't got no food to eat
There's mean things happening in this land

There are mean thing happening in this land
Mean things happening in this land
We sent our boys all off to war
Now tell me what was it all for?
There's mean things happening in this land

There is mean things happening in this land
There is mean things happening in this land

There are mean thing happening in this land
Mean things happening in this land
If you're black or brown or tan
You're in trouble with the man
There's mean things happening in this land

There is mean thing happening in this land
Mean things happening in this land
But the people are going on
The people are growing strong
There's mean things happening in this land

© 2006 Finnegan Music | Credits


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Subject: ADD Original: Mean Things Happening in This Land
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 04:23 AM

Here's the original, recorded in the late 1930s.

THERE IS MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS LAND
(John Handcox)

There is mean things happening in this land,
There is mean things happening in this land;
But the union's goin' on.
And the union's growing strong;
There is mean things happening in this land.

On the eighteenth day of May
The union called a strike.
But the planters and their bosses
Throwed the people outta their shacks.


from Songs for Political Action, Bear Family Records

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-edNFqvLLA


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Subject: ADD: Strange Things Happening in This Land
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 04:56 AM

Sis Cunningham and her father added verses and sang the song as "Strange Things Happening"

THERE ARE STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING
(Chick and Sis Cunningham)

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
Oh, the rich man boasts and brags / While the poor man goes in rags
There are strange things happening in this land.

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
Oh, the farmer cannot eat / 'cause he's raised too much wheat
There are strange things happening in this land.

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
Too much cotton in our sacks / So we have none on our backs
There are strange things happening in this land.

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
Lots of groceries on the shelves / But we have none for ourselves
There are strange things happening in this land.

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
Oh, we'll have even less to eat / When the drums commence to beat
There are strange things happening in this land.

There are strange things happening in this land (repeat)
But when working men refuse / To put on their old war shoes
There'll be good things happening in this land.

There'll be good things happening in this land (repeat)
When the workers take a stand / And unite in a solid band
There'll be good things happening in this land.


In Arkansas, dispossessed sharecroppers bore the brunt of the hard times. John Handcox, an organizer for the union, wrote the song that tells of their plight.
With this version by Chick and Sis Cunningham, published in Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People.

Notes from Sis Cunningham: The above additional lyrics, these 7 verses to the John Handcox classic, were made up by my father and me in '37., shortly after I met Handcox at the Muskogee SFTU Convention. These lyrics have been printed dozens of times, recorded, sung on nation-wide TV, used in labor musicals, & performed at who knows how many rallies and concerts. Only once did we get credit for them that I know of: Wanda Whitman's collection of SONGS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD. Credit for the great sing-along chorus goes to John Handcox. -SC


from the liner notes from Folkways Records No. FH5319, Sundown: Agnes "Sis" Cunningham Sings Her Own Songs & a Few Old Favorites, Broadside No. 9


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Subject: ADD: Mean Things Happening in This World (Guthrie)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 05:43 AM

Now, to make things interesting, Woody Guthrie also wrote a song on this line, with the tune added much later by Blackfire.

Mean Things Happenin' In This World
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Blackfire

Look at th' Big War 'crost the Sea;
Well I'm sure that you'll agree
There's mean things a happenin' in this world;

I ain't got a cryin' dime,
An' I'm that a way all th' time;
There's mean things a happenin' in this world;

Ever thing is leased and lent
And to Britain it has went;
And th' Soldier in th' War
Don't know what he's a fightin' for;
And the Tanks a rollin' on
To th' burstin' of th' bombs;
Brother an' Sister getting' killed
For a green back dollar bill;
There's Mean things a happenin' in this World

Man and Woman lend an ear
To the War that's drawin' neat;
You are spied on by Police
If you Speak the Word of Peace;
If you talk 'bout Broth'ly Love
Back in Jail you'll get shoved;
O' I'd ruther'd fight for Peace
Than this crooked Lend & Lease
There's Mean things a happenin' in this World

Folks wants Peace for miles aroun'
Lord, from New York City down;
But we're a gonna save our Nation
With a Peace Mobilization;
Lord, the cops turn on th' heat
If you talk Peace on th' street
Organize my Brother and Sister
And we'll win this World again;
There's Mean things a happenin' in this World

*This song was recorded on the "Woody Guthrie Singles" album recorded by Blackfire. This album is no longer available.

http://woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Mean_Things_Happenin_In_This_World.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As-ter6rOwY


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Subject: RE: Origins:Strange/Mean Things Happening in This Land
From: Mark Ross
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 12:36 PM

You can hear Handcox's original recording on http://www.bear-family.com/en/folk-world/folk/va-songs-for-political-action-10-cd-book-buch.html


Mark Ross

P.S. blue clicky isn't working today.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING EVERY DAY(Tharpe
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 17 Sep 14 - 07:25 PM

STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING EVERY DAY
As sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 1944.

Oh, we hear church people say
They are in this holy way.
There are strange things happ'ning every day.
On that last great judgment day,
When they drive them all the way,
There are strange things happ'ning every day.

CHORUS: Every day (ev'ry day),
Every day (ev'ry day),
There are strange things happ'ning every day (ev'ry day).
Every day (ev'ry day),
Every day,
There are strange things happ'ning every day.

If you want to view the crime(?),
You must learn to quit your lyin'.
There are strange things happ'ning every day.
If you hew right to the line,
You can live right all the time.
There are strange things happ'ning every day.

Jesus is the holy light,
Turning darkness into light.
There are strange things happ'ning every day.
Oh, he gave the blind man sight,
And he pledged(?) him with all his might.
There are strange things happ'ning ev'ry day.

CHORUS


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Subject: Lyr Add: STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING (Percy Mayfield)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 18 Sep 14 - 12:41 PM

STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING
As recorded by Percy Mayfield, 1950

Learn to love me or leave me, either one you want to do, (2x)
Because strange things is happening, baby, and something may happen to you.

If you know you don't love me, why won't you let me be? (2x)
Because it's better to be without you than to live on in misery.

Midnight find me cryin'; daylight find me cryin', too. (2x)
You better straighten your mind, pretty baby, 'cause something may happen to you.


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