The Big Rock Candy Mountain

A folk song, as used in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

The version used in the film is performed by Harry McClintock and is somewhat different to the Burl Ives one I'm more familiar with. It's more folksy and more explicitly about the lot of the homeless- as far as I can remember the Ives version was adapted to describe the sort of paradise anyone could enjoy, rather than the tragic fantasy of an old-time tramp.

One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fires were burning
Down the track came a hobo hiking.
He said "Boys I'm not turning;
I'm heading for a land that's far away
Beside that crystal fountain.
I'll see you all this coming fall
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
It's a land that's fair and bright
The handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out ev'ry night;
The box-cars are all empty
And the sun shines ev'ry day
I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the sleet don't fall
And the wind don't blow,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Oh the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees,
By the soda water fountains,
By the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks,
Little streams of alky-hol
Comes trickling down the rocks.
Oh the shacks all have to tip their hats,
And the railroad bulls are blind,
There's a lake of stew and whiskey too,
And you can paddle all around it
In a big Canoe.
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Oh the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette tress,
By the soda water fountains,
By the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The cops have wooden legs,
The bull-dogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs.
The Box-cars all are empty
And the sun shines ev'ry day
I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the sleet don't fall
And the wind don't blow,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Oh the buzzing of the bees in the cigarettes tress,
By the soda water fountains,
By the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin,
You can slip right out again
As soon as they put you in.
There ain't no short handled shovels,
No axes, saws nor picks.
I'm bound to stay where you sleep all day.
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

I remember hearing a DJ announce this as The Big Cock Roundthe Mountain once. teehee!

This w/u is CST Approved.


Editor's Note: A time-honored hobo ballad by many accounts, several sources also attribute Big Rock Candy Mountain to Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock, a tramp entertainer and organizer for the "Wobblies." Mr. McClintock recorded it sometime during the 1920’s and lost a subsequent lawsuit on the issue of copyright with the judge ruling that the lyrics were derived from a folk song in the public domain.

Even though McClintock never receive royalties from his original recording it was Burl Ives who popularized the song in the '40s and '50s. Either MCA Records, or the McClintock or Burl Ives Estates may own the copyright, but to date no one has been able to establish who truly originated the song.(lo)
Source:
www.suite101.com/article.cfm/caring_soul/90293
accessed March 6, 2004.

A song of the open road - from "Ironweed"

This is the fuller, 'adult' version of the song I recall from childhood, from hearing it on the radio, and from the 1987 film Ironweed - a song of the open road, a hobo's dream, to travel freely and with no persecution or fuss. This traveller's Shangri-La has all the comforts which anyone could ever want, at no cost, and no responsibility. The thing which has stuck in my mind all these years is the sheer cheek of it all - to wish to freeload your way through life...

Harry McClintock allegedly wrote the song, but lost a lawsuit on the issue of copyright, as the song was based on an old hobo song, and ruled to be in the pulic domain.

On a summer day
In the month of May
A burly bum came hiking
Down a shady lane
Through the sugar cane
He was looking for his liking
As he roamed along
He sang a song
Of the land of milk and honey
Where a bum can stay
For many a day
And he won't need any money

Chorus:
Oh the buzzin' of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
On the Big Rock Candy Mountain
There's a lake of gin
We can both jump in
And the handouts grow on bushes
In the new-mown hay
We can sleep all day
And the bars all have free lunches
Where the mail train stops
And there ain't no cops
And the folks are tender-hearted
Where you never change your socks
And you never throw rocks
And your hair is never parted

Chorus

Oh, a farmer and his son,
They were on the run
To the hay field they were bounding
Said the bum to the son,
"Why don't you come
To that Big Rock Candy Mountain?"
So the very next day
They hiked away,
The mileposts they were counting
But they never arrived
At the lemonade tide
On the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Chorus

One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fires were burning,
Down the track came a hobo hiking,
He said, "Boys, I'm not turning
I'm heading for a land that's far away
Beside the crystal fountain
I'll see you all this coming fall
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Chorus

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
It's a land that's fair and bright,
The handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night.
The boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the sleet don't fall
And the winds don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Chorus

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You never change your socks
And little streams of alkyhol
Come trickling down the rocks
O the shacks all have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew
And ginger ale too
And you can paddle
All around it in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Chorus

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
The cops have wooden legs
The bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The box-cars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the sleet don't fall
And the winds don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Chorus

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
The jails are made of tin.
You can slip right out again,
As soon as they put you in.
There ain't no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws nor picks,
I'm bound to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Chorus

Attributed to Harry McClintock.

Perhaps this song is one of the things which has influenced me to be footloose, amid others like King of the Road. A traveller am I.


CST Approved

'The Big Rock Candy Mountain' is one of many songs about mythical lands of plenty and comfort, a tradition that stretches back seven hundred years or more in Europe. Life really sucked back then for the vast majority of people, and the tiny minority of people who enjoyed a degree of material comfort generally spent their days blissfully exploiting the populace.

Out from this social divide between oppressor and oppressed sprung the legend of Cockaigne. Cockaigne was a place where monks beat abbots, kings had to step aside for peasants, nuns cavorted around in various states of undress, feasts grew on trees and there was no need to work. The inhabitants of Cockaigne spent their days lounging around, eating, drinking and getting laid.

The legend quickly spread throughout Europe. The Germans knew it as 'Schlaraffenland', the Swedes as 'Lubberland', the Dutch as 'Luilikkerland', and to the Spanish, Cockaigne was known as 'Cucaña'. A bunch of rowdy German monks in Benediktbeuren immortalized this place in the poem, 'Ego sum abbas cucaniensis', preserved in the Carmina Burana (check out its hit single, 'Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi'). Pieter Bruegel painted 'Land of Cockaigne' in 1567, depicting a bunch of guys laying around, fat and contented, around a tree whose branches hang laden with roasted geese and jugs of beer. But Cockaigne was not a utopia; at least in Thomas More's take on earthly paradises generally involved order and disciplined governance, well in keeping with the upbringing his social station afforded him, while Cockaigne was a land where conventional morality was suspended and authority held no sway.

The paradise depicted in the song 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain' was similar in practically every respect to Cockaigne: a mythical land without bosses or cops, where nothing was forbidden, where a person lacked for nothing, a paradise for the downtrodden. It was one big kegger, where everyone was real chill and there were no douchebags or cranky neighbors calling the police on you.

Afterword (April 16, 2009): I feel it's a tootin' disgrace that I neglected to mention the following: Ancientsnow's excellent write-up on the Guaraní legend of Yvymarae'ỹ (thanks to rootbeet277 for reminding me), as well as mention of Cockaigne in The Joys of Cooking as a term for those recipes particularly favored by the authors of said tome (as in 'rice pudding with raisins Cockaigne' --- thanks shaogo!)

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