A Song by Les Rice: The Banks are Made of Marble

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CommonDreams.org

A Song by Les Rice: The Banks are Made of Marble

I've traveled round this country
From shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw

I saw the weary farmer
Plowing sod and loam
l heard the auction hammer
A knocking down his home

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for

l saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore
l heard the bosses saying
Got no work for you no more

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for

I saw the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin
Got no coal to heat the shack

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
l prayed we'd get together
And together make a stand

Final Chorus

Then we'd own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we'd share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for

Les Rice

Les Rice was a New York State apple farmer and one-time president of the Ulster County chapter of the Farmers Union. His songs have made him well-known to farmers throughout the northeast. This song, ‘Banks of Marble’, written around 1948-49 deals with the farmer’s perennial problem of “parity” and how it affects the farmer’s life. Pete Seeger recorded the song on at least two albums; and in a note in one of his songbooks he wrote that Rice ‘farms across the Hudson from me, near Newburgh [Orange County, New York]. Like most small farmers, he was getting intolerably squeezed by the big companies which sold him all his fertilizer, insecticide and equipment, and the big companies that dictated to him the prices he would get for his produce. Out of that squeeze came this song.’

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