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Pay Me My Money Down - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Pay Me My Money Down seems to have begun life as a sea-shanty, and is often given a lilting, calypso feel.  In the ports of the southern United States it was not unusual for captains to insist that their ships be unloaded as soon as they arrived at the quayside, promising to pay the dock workers the next morning.  But come the next morning the ship had gone, and the workers were left unpaid. As so often with folk songs, the lyrics were frequently adapted for local conditions.  Presumably Mr Howard and Mr Steven were rich bosses.  Even today, the lyrics are often brought up to date with the addition of extra verses.  For example, in the version of Pay Me My Money Down that Bruce Springsteen recorded for his Seeger Sessions album, he added a lyric about wishing he was Mr Gates, which may be a reference to the Microsoft founder (see this Mudcat thread for alternative lyrics).  Pay Me My Money Down was also famously recorded by The Weavers and the Kingston Trio, and there is an affecting recent version by Dan Zanes.  Since it is a two-chord trick (you can get away without the D7 if you want to), Pay Me My Money Down is a great song for beginners to learn.

 

Chords

G                      
I thought I heard the captain say

                   D           D7   
Pay me my money down

     D                       D7
Tomorrow is our sailing day


                    G                 

Pay me my money down




G

Pay me, pay me


G                 D

Pay me my money down


D7

Pay me or go to jail


D7              G

Pay me my money down


Lyrics

I thought I heard our captain say
Pay me my money down
Tomorrow is our sailing day
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Soon as the boat was clear of the bar
Pay me money down
He knocked me down with the end of a spar
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

 

I wish I was Mr Howard's son,
Pay me my money down,
Sit in the house and drink good rum,
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

I wish I was Mr Steven's son
Pay me my money down,
Sit on the bank and watch the work done,
Pay me my money down

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

Other American Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs


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