“You Keep Me In Jail”

September 4, 2009 · Print This Article

“You keep me in jail and you lock me in prison” form part of the lyrics of the Woody Guthrie song, ‘I’ve Got To Know’. The actor Tim Robbins recommended this song to the Trust which is used at the end of his brilliant political satire, ‘Bob Roberts’ (1992).

Woodrow Wilson ‘Woody’ Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) is best known as an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar.

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I’ve got to know, yes
I’ve got to know, friend,
Hungry lips ask me wherever I go
Comrades and friends are falling around me
I’ve got to know, yes,
I’ve got to know

Why do your war boats ride on my waters?
Why do your death bombs fall down from our skies?
Why do you burn my farm and my farm down?
I’ve got to know, friend
I’ve got to know


What makes your boats haul death to my people
Nitro blockbusters, big cannons and guns
Why doesn’t your ship bring food and some clothing?

I’ve got to know, folks
I’ve got to know

Why can’t my two hands get a good paid job
I can still plough, plant, I can still sew
Why did your law book chase me off my good land
I’d sure like to know friend, I’ve just got to know!


What good work did you do, I’d like to ask you
Give you my money right out of my hands?
I built your big house, here to hide from my people

Why did you hide so, I’d like to know!


You keep me in jail and you lock me in prison
Your hospitals jammed and your crazyhouse full,
What made your cop kill my trade union worker?
You’ll have to talk plain ’cause I sure got to know!


Why can’t I get work and cash a big paycheck?

Why can’t I buy things in your place and your store?

Why do you close my plant down and starve all my buddies?

I’m asking you, now, ’cause I’ve sure got to know!

I’ve got to know yes
I’ve got to know friend
Hungry lips ask me wherever I go
Comrades and friends are falling around me
I’ve got to know, yes
I’ve got to know…


2 Responses to ““You Keep Me In Jail””

  1. JHR on September 24th, 2009 7:44 pm

    Good stuff.

  2. Ronan Gallagher on October 1st, 2009 5:37 am

    What about ‘The Gentle Black and Tan’ reported to be a favourite party piece of Conor Cruise O Brien. I only remember the last line which referenced the burning of Cork thus.

    ‘Sure I only bought the matches, cried the Gentle Black and Tan.’

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