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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,ClaireBear Lyr Req: The Dying Hobo (27) Lyr/Tune Add: THE DYING HOBO 14 Mar 06

I wanted to add to this thread over a week ago, but couldn't remember all the lyrics of my father's version. Thank goodness we had a family reunion last week; it took all four of us kids to piece it together. Unfortunately none of us has a clue where Dad got it.

His brother Uncle Gene had been a hobo, so my father (himself an eminently respectable historian who I suspect sometimes wished he'd gone "on the bum" instead) had a particular, wistful fondness for this song. The lyrics to the version he sang were a bit like the Ozarks Folksongs words, except that the respective locations of the boxcar and the girlfriend make it quite clear the pal wasn't going to deliver the message -- a detail I always found poignant. On the whole I think these lyrics are more sympathetic to the hobo's lot than most...and it's the only version I know of that mentions heaven by name.

A few other differences as well, notably a couple of lines that scan differently and seem to be better suited to the alternate tune he used. Dad's version had 2-line verses and a rather mournful waltz-time tune that sounded, if you can imagine, sort of vaguely like a particularly torpid rendition of "The Frozen Logger". Near as we can remember, this is how he sang it:


In a Chicago trainyard, one cold December day,
Inside an empty boxcar a dying hobo lay.

His comrade knelt beside him, and low he bent his head,
And listened to the last few words the dying hobo said.

"Go tell my girl in Denver her face no more I'll view,
For I have caught a Heav'n-bound train and I am going through

Where handouts grow on bushes and windows have no locks,
And little streams of alcohol come tricklin' down the rocks."

His eyes grew dim, his head fell back; he'd sung his last refrain.
His comrade swiped his hat and shoes and hopped an east-bound train.


Here's an approximation of the tune, in slow 3/4 time, key of C. In arial, it should line up. In any other font, line up the slashes and it'll come out about right.

Sorry I don't have a better way to record it.

Rhythm:   3 / 12 3   / 1 2 3 / 1 2 3         / 12   3   /   1 2   3   / 1      2 3   / 1 2 3 / 1 2
Notes:      E / E.. E / C.. D / E E ..       / ..    E   /   F..    F / C      D .. / E ..    / ..
Lyrics:      In / a   Chi / ca-go / trainyard .. /.. # one / cold.. De / cember .. / day .. /... #

Rhythm:   3 /1 2 3 / 1 2   3 / 1 2 3      / 1 2 3 / 1 2 3   / 1 2 3 / 1
Notes:      G /G    G / F    E / E D ..    / ..    g   / F F..   / E .. D / C
Lyrics:      In /side an / emp-ty / boxcar.. /.. #   a / dy-ing / ho-bo / lay.

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