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Song: Gallows Pole
Album: Led Zeppelin III [released Oct 5, 1970 (US) | Oct 23, 1970 (UK)]
Credited to: Traditional (arr. by Page/Plant)
Gallis Pole - Leadbelly (previous cover)
Gallis Pole - Fred Gerlach (previous cover)
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while
I think I see my friends comin', ridin' many a mile
Friends, ya get some silver, d'ya get a little gold
What did ya bring me, my dear friends, keep me from the gallows pole
What did ya bring me, keep me from the gallows pole
I couldn't get no silver, I couldn't get no gold
You know that we're too damn poor to keep you from the gallows pole
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while
I think I see my brother comin', ridin' many a mile
Brother, ya get me some silver, and d'ya get a little gold
What did ya bring me, my brother, keep me from the gallows pole
Brother, I brought you some silver, yeah
I brought a little gold
I brought a little of everything to keep you from the gallows pole
Yes, I brought you, to keep you from the gallows pole
Hangman, hangman, turn your head a while
I think I see my sister comin', ridin' many a mile, mile, mile, mile
Sister, I implore ya, take him by the hand
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man
Please take him, save me from the wrath of this madman
Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile
Tell me that I'm free to ride, ride for many a mile, mile, mile
Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, she warmed my blood from cold
She warmed my blood to boilin' hot, keep you from the gallows pole, pole, pole, pole, yeah, yeah
Your brother brought me silver, and your sister warmed my soul
but now I laugh and pull so hard, see ya swingin' on the gallows pole, yeah
But now I laugh and pull so hard, see ya swingin' on the gallows pole, pole, pole
Swingin' on the gallows pole, swingin' on the gallows pole
Swingin' on the gallows pole, swingin' on the gallows pole, pole, pole, pole, pole, pole, pole, yeah
Ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha
Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha
Keep a-singin', a-keep a-singin', a-keep a-swingin'
A-keep, keep, whoa-whoa-whoa
Ooh, yeah, ooh, yeah, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha-ha, ah-ha
Swingin' on the gallows, yeah, swingin' on the gallows pole
Swingin' on the gallows pole, swingin' on the, ah, I gotta swing
See-saw, Margaret Daw, gotta swing
See-saw, knock on my door, I, I gotta sing, ah-ha-ha
Keep a-swingin', yeah, keep a-coolin', yeah
Keep a-cool, ah-ohh, yeah
Influences: As indicated, this is a traditional tune that has been recorded by Leadbelly (as Gallis Pole) as well as Fred Gerlach. Its history likely goes back quite a ways, and to offer some perspective, here is some insight from the brilliant blues historian Spike:
Between 1882 and 1898, Harvard folklorist Francis James Child published a definitive collection of 305 traditional English and Scottish ballads. One of these (Child No. 95E was entitled The Maid Freed from the Gallows.EThis ballad tells the tale of a young woman who has been kidnapped and held for ransom. If the ransom isnt paid, she will be hung.
Also, on Jeff Beck's second solo album, Beck-Ola, released in 1969, there is a song titled The Hangman's Knee, which presents a theme similar to Gallow's Pole.
A 1770 English version of the ballad cited by Child includes the verse:
Oh father oh father, a little of your gold,
And likewise of your fee!
To keep my body from yonder grave,
And my neck from the gallows-tree.E
One by one, her father, mother, brother and sister decline to pay her ransom, saying theyve come to watch her hang. Finally, her true-loveEpays her ransom and frees her.
As English and Scots migrated to America, they brought their traditional ballads with them. Many of these ballads were preserved for many generations in isolated settlings in the Appalachians. In 1959, Folkways Records recorded Jean Ritchie of Viper, KY singing a version of Child No. 95 entitled HangmanEthat is very similar to the 1770 version cited by Child, except that the person on the gallows is now a man. Ritchie often sings without accompaniment, but on this song she backs her vocal with a hammer dulcimer.
But the traditional music brought by the English and Scots to America wasnt restricted to isolated mountain communities. These songs spread to a wide variety of cultures in the US. For example, in 1939 the Library of Congress recorded a version of Child No. 95 entitled Gallows PoleE(sometimes spelled Gallis PoleE by an African American songster named Huddie Ledbetter, or Lead Belly. Much of Lead Bellys version of the tale is spoken, accompanied by a percussive 12 string guitar. The story is largely the same, except now the money is needed to release the man from jail, not kidnappers.
Lead Belly was highly influential with musicians of the American folk revival of the late 1950s/early 1960s. One such musician was Fred Gerlach, who recorded a version of Child No. 95 in 1962 for Folkways called Gallis Pole.EThis version is clearly based on Lead Bellys and is noteworthy for its spectacular 12 string guitar.
In 1970, Led Zeppelin recorded Gallows Pole,Ewhich Jimmy Page has said is based on the Gerlach version. So things have come full circle. Two hundred years after it appeared in print, the song had been exported to America; crossed the racial line from white to black; the black version had been revived by a white American folk singer; and the white American folk version had been reimported into England by a British rock nEroll band. [thanks, Spike]
Gallis Pole - Leadbelly
Father, did you bring me silver
Father, did you bring me any gold
What did you bring me, dear father, to keep me from the gallis pole
In olden time, years ago, when you put a man in prison, behind the bars in a jailhouse, if you have fifteen or twenty five or thirty dollars, you can save him from the gallis pole, cause he's gonna hang him, if you don't bring him a little money. Everybody would come to the jailhouse and all from random side of his jail. He was married, too. As for who brang him somethin', lot of comfort, here come his mother.
Mother, did you bring me any silver
Mother, did you bring me any gold
What did you bring me, dear mother, to keep me from the gallis pole
Son, I brought you some silver
Son, I brought you some gold
Son, I brought you a little o' everything, to keep you from the gallis pole
Here come his wife, his wife brought all kinda clock parts and old trace change, everything in the world she could to get him out of this jailhouse.
Wife, did you bring me silver
Wife, did you bring me any gold
What did you bring me, dear wife, to keep me from the gallis pole
Friend, did you bring me silver
Friend, did you bring me any gold
What did you bring me, my dear friend, to keep me from the gallis pole