"Hallelujah I'm a Bum" played on homemade ukulele

Scott Matthews says:

It's a hand-made ukulele built from an old Deluxe Memory Man box (the Deluxe Memory Man is a classic analog delay, and one of EHX's best-known pedals).

The song seems to be a 100-year-old hobo folk tune, and I can't get it out of my head!


  1. Love that tune. Apparently it was a snide response to the Salvation Army standard “Revive Us Again”, sung to the same tune.

    My personal favourite is the Woody Guthrie version (maybe on archive.org?)

  2. Yeah, cute girlie-girls only, please. Otherwise the ukulele is a pathetic excuse for a musical instrument.

  3. My mom used to (and still does) sing the chorus to this. I didn’t know there were other words. This is fantastic. Thanks Mark!

  4. It’s amazing how people depoliticize these songs.

    “This Land is Your Land” is probably the best-known example, but this version of “Hallelujah I’m a Bum,” has lost some of the power of the original. I suppose “Solidarity Forever,” “The Preacher and the Slave,” “Paint ‘Er Red,” etc. will get tamed too.

  5. “The version published in 1908 goes:

    Why don’t you work like other folks do?
    How the hell can I work when there’s no work to do?

    Hallelujah, I’m a bum,
    Hallelujah, bum again,
    Hallelujah, give us a handout
    To revive us again.

    Oh, why don’t you save all the money you earn?
    If I didn’t eat, I’d have money to burn.

    Whenever I get all the money I earn,
    The boss will be broke, and to work he must turn.

    Oh, I like my boss, he’s a good friend of mine,
    That’s why I am starving out on the breadline.

    When springtime it comes, oh, won’t we have fun;
    We’ll throw off our jobs, and go on the bum. “

  6. Dan Zanes does a great version of this song on his ode to Carl Sandburg’s American Songbook, Panoramas and Parades. Love Dan Zanes.

  7. My parents had this song on an old 78 rpm record, can’t recall who it was by.

    We kept asking for this record to be played as kids because the word “bum” in Australia is the same as “butt” in the US – so much childish poo-humour hilarity would ensue amongst me and the siblings :)

    Those 78s got me into George Formby and ukes when I was a geeky teenage small-town lonely punk twenty years ago …..and I still find butt jokes way funnier they should be.

  8. We wobblies still sing it. Interesting to hear it on ukulele, but I second the sentiment that this is a watered down version. I like the Utah Philips version, and the updated riot folk versions.

  9. I’m the guy in the video, thanks so much for all of the information that I am learning about this song. I got it out of an old book I found at the trift store. I’ve since learned its history has been way bastardized. but that’s the way of a good folk song.

  10. Just popped in to blow a big, slobbery raspberry at ElSmiley (#3).

    That is all. Carry on.

  11. I second the recommendation for anything by U Utah Phillips. Watch a video of a live performance of one version of this song, mingled with some storytelling, on youtube here:

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