ROOT HOG AND DIE

(WOODY GUTHRIE) (1945-'46)

Police guarding State Penitentiary on the night of execution.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND | SONG LYRICS


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In their cells in the death house of the Massachusetts State Prison, Messrs. Sacco & Vanzetti heard last week that they were to die. Mrs. Sacco and two advisers brought the news. For an hour and a half, they talked together, while prison guards listened and looked. Mr. Sacco (then on the 19th day of a hunger strike) mumbled over and over. "I told you so, I told you so," as if in rhythm with his throbbing, withered arteries. Said Mr. Vanzetti: "I don't believe it."

Last week, Governor Fuller announced that the committee had unanimously agreed with him that Messrs. Sacco & Vanzetti were guilty of murder and had been given a fair trial. Hence, he would not intervene to prevent the passage of electricity through their bodies. The official decision of Governor Fuller dwelt on such points as the "brutality" of the South Braintree crime and the "inexcusable" dragging out of the case. However, on the important question of radicalism, Governor Fuller said:

"Complaint has been made that the defendants were prosecuted and convicted because they were anarchists. As a matter of fact, the issue of anarchy was brought in by them as an explanation of their suspicious conduct."
Fanatics the world over seemed to think that last week was an opportune time to explode bombs. Whether all these dynamiters were Sacco-Vanzetti sympathizers is not known. At any rate, in the next three days two Manhattan subway stations, a West Philadelphia Presbyterian Church and the home of popular Mayor William F. Broening of Baltimore were partially wrecked by bomb explosions.

Governor Fuller and others connected with the Sacco-Vanzetti case had their homes protected by armed guards. Their mail was choked with threats. Even the U.S. Supreme Court received a postcard: "If there is any more trouble in our ranks, we're going to blow up some of you big boys."

TIME, August 15, 1927



Lyrics as reprinted in liner notes for "Ballades de Sacco & Vanzetti" (French edition of "Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti", Folkways/Le Chant du Monde, LDX 74467, 1960s); minor corrections by Manfred Helfert.


Root hog and die, friend, root hog and die,
Gotta get to Boston, root hog and die.
Sacco and Vanzetti die at sundown tonight,
So I've got to get to Boston, root hog and die.

Train wheel can roll me, cushions can ride,
Ships on the oceans, planes in the skies.
Storms they can come, Lord, flood waters rise,
But I've got to get to Boston, ror two men'll die.

Nicola Sacco, a shoe factory hand,
Bartolomo [sic] Vanzetti, a trade union man,
Judge Webster Thayer swore they'll die,
But I've got to get to Boston, 'fore sundown tonight.

I might walk around, an' I might roll or fly,
Walkin' down this road shoulder, tears in my eyes.
They never done a wrong in their lives,
But Judge Webster Thayer says they must die.

Well, some come to Boston to see all the sights,
Some come to Boston to drink and to fight.
Sacco and Vanzetti told the workers "Organize!",
So Judge Webster Thayer says they must die.

Oh, Mr. Wagon Driver, please let me ride,
That's a nice-pacin' team that you got here all right.
Did you ever hear such a thing in your life?
Judge Webster Thayer killin' two men tonight.

Hey, Mr. Engineer, lemme ride your train,
Throw in your coal an' steam up your steam.
If I can't ride the shack, please lemme ride the blind,
Got to get to Boston 'fore sundown tonight.


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