Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Eyes on the Prize) - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Recorded famously by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and others, Eyes on the Prize (or 'Keep Your Eyes on the Prize' as it is sometimes known), developed from an earlier black American gospel song usually known as 'Keep Your Hands on the Plow', with which it shares chords, a tune and some lyrics (you can find the lyrics to 'Keep Your Hands on the Plow' here).  It became one of the emblematic songs of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.  'Keep Your Hands on the Plow' and 'Eyes on the Prize' both include verses about the jailing of the apostles Paul and Silas.  As detailed in Acts 16 of the Bible, they pair were first severely beaten and then unjustly imprisoned in Phillippi.  Their crime was to cast a demon out of an enslaved fortune teller, thus depriving her master of income, as without the demon she could no longer  see the future.  In the middle of the night, as the jailed Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns, there was a powerful earthquake, "the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose."  It's easy to see why this biblical reference might have resonated so powerfully with black Americans fighting for justice.

If you have Spotify installed on your computer, follow this link for Pete Seeger's explanation of how the song developed from its gospel roots.  Possibly driven by an activist named Alice Wine, the refrain was changed from 'Keep your hands on the plow' (itself a biblical reference) to 'Keep your eyes on the prize' (another biblical reference, since the Apostle Paul likened salvation to a prize to be won).  The immediate prize, in this case, was racial equality.  There is a longer discussion of the song's origins here.

song - Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Eyes on the Prize) - on iTunes

Click here to listen to Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Eyes on the Prize) in Spotify.

Chords

Capo at 5th Fret

Am

Paul and Silas bound in jail

Am               
Had no money for to go their bail

Am                                  G
Keep your eyes on the prize


Am          G       Am 

Hold on, hold on




Am

Paul and Silas thought they was lost


Am
Dungeon shook and the chains fell off

Am                                  G
Keep your eyes on the prize

Am          G       Am 
Hold on, hold on



Chorus


         C             Am
Hold on, hold on

 
Am                                  G
Keep your eyes on the prize

 
Am          G      Am 
Hold on, hold on


Lyrics

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on

Paul and Silas thought they was lost 
Dungeon shook and the chains fell off 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

The only thing that we did was wrong 
Was staying' in the wilderness too long 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

The only thing we did was right 
Was the day we begun to fight 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Freedom's name is mighty sweet 
One day soon we're gonna meet 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Got my hand on the gospel plow 
Won't take nothing for my journey now 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

And some possible alternative verses:

Only chain that a man can stand 
Is that chain o'hand on hand
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

 We're gonna board that big Greyhound,
Carryin’ love from town to town.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on 

We're gonna ride for civil rights,
We’re gonna ride both black and white.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on 

We've met jail and violence too,
But God's love has seen us through.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

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