Glory and Fame

I pulled the stones for the emperor, stacked ’em up and made that wall
I thought, a mountain lasts forever but the rain must always fall
I worked the mines in Chile for conquistador
Died there in the pitshaft, joined my family with the ore
I tapped the trees for Leopold, and then he took my hands
The sap sailed to Brussels and my blood stained the lands
I cut down the sugar cane on the islands off the coast
Oh but the sweet taste of freedom is the stuff that I love most

Tell me who am I
Do you know my name
Will I lie forgotten
Or arise in glory and fame

I fought with Poncho Villa, stood with him side by side
When the Bluecoats took the land, I thought how long is freedom’s ride
I was there at Haymarket with the martyrs eight
For striking in Chicago, death would have to be my fate
I cut the timber in Centralia, nearly broke my back
Tried to organize a union and they tied me to the tracks
I fought in Barcelona, kept the fascists there at bay
Then when Hitler’s tanks came rolling, I knew we couldn’t stay

Chorus

I mined the ore in Arizona, last of the Navajo
Got that radium a-glowin’ then it was time for me to go
I marched in South Africa, found myself in Sharpeville
Once the police came and went I was lying oh so still
I campaigned for Allende for a nation without fear
Didn’t look behind me for the day I’d disappear
I spoke at Tiananmen to revive the revolution
Didn’t think for Deng Xiaoping, rolling tanks were his solution

Chorus

I grew the mangos in Somalia for the people in the west
And when the price of fruit went down, I went down starving with the rest
I worked the plant in Bangkok, breathed the dusty air
When the cotton started burning, I knew my life would not be spared
The cops beat me in Los Angeles but I would not be scared
When they sent the Army in, I thought next time we’ll be prepared
Yes I’ve been yearning for a new day, all the world wide
Some day my time will come and you will have to step aside

Chorus

“Glory and Fame” first appeared in this form on the 1998 CD, We Just Want the World. A longer, earlier version appeared on Make It So in 1996, and an earlier cassette.

This was the first song I wrote after my friend and housemate Eric Mark was killed. I think the second song I wrote was a song about him. This was when I started writing decent songs. It took a few more years before I was writing decent songs on a regular basis. This song is a sort of world history survey, with an emphasis on key moments in the global struggles around class, race, and colonialism.

Originally I called it “Ballad of the Proletariat.” I was singing an early version of the song at a summer gathering of the People’s Music Network (PMN). Pete Seeger was at that one, and he was participating in the song swap where I sang that song. In later years he said many nice things about other songs I wrote. He might have said something nice about this one, I don’t remember. What I vividly remember were what he said about the title, after he asked me what I called the song.

“Proletariat,” Pete said, “is a long, Latin word. It might as well be in Swahili or Chinese.”

I promptly changed the title.

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