Muhlenberg, Kentucky. The Loss of Paradise.

Paradise….. a folk song

Commonly associated with folk lore, folk music is known for story telling. Originating in popular culture, folk songs are passed down from generation to generation, often with words or their meaning changing in the retelling. Historically these songs were transmitted orally and learned by singing with others. That changed in the 1930s with electrical music recording, record players and radios.

The Oklahoma dust bowl followed by the Great Depression left thousands of Americans in desperate conditions. Folk singers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger wrote songs to bring hope to the disenfranchised. They traveled the country singing in union halls, at rallies and political gatherings. Besides personal appearances radio airwaves provided a forum for their controversial social commentary and criticism.

In 1960s America the momentum of social activism promoting concepts of peace and notions of equal rights gave rise to a new generation of folk singers and protest songs. Civil liberties, civil rights, women’s rights, economic injustice, politics and war were popular subjects for protest songs. They were effective in drawing people together and inspiring them to take action or reflect.

Every now and then a song comes along that has a lasting impact on our perspective. The first folk song I remember that addressed environmental concerns was like that. I have kept it close in my memories and recall it often.

Paradise… John Prine

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn

chorus…And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we’d travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Airdrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill

chorus…And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County

Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man

chorus…And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am

chorus…And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County

Songwriters: John Prine Paradise lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Peace, Dohn

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
This entry was posted in environment, local economy, Music, politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Muhlenberg, Kentucky. The Loss of Paradise.

  1. Paula Byrd says:

    Everything’s different, yet everything’s the same! Thanks for the reminder and the journey back in time. I didn’t appreciate it then (just a tad bit young) as much as I do now.

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