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I'd Rather Not Be on Relief, song lyrics

Song: I'd Rather Not Be on Relief
Lyrics: Lester Hunter(1)

Music: n/a
Year: 1938(1)
Country: USA

We go around all dressed in rags
While the rest of the world goes neat,
And we have to be satisfied
With half enough to eat.
We have to live in lean-tos,
Or else we live in a tent,
For when we buy our bread and beans
There's nothing left for rent.

I'd rather not be on the rolls of relief,
Or work on the W. P. A., (2)
We'd rather work for the farmer
If the farmer could raise the pay;
Then the farmer could plant more cotton
And he'd get more money for spuds,
Instead of wearing patches,
We'd dress up in new duds.
This song was originally posted on
From the east and west and north and south
Like a swarm of bees we come;
The migratory workers
Are worse off than a bum.
We go to Mr. Farmer
And ask him what he'll pay;
He says, "You gypsy workers
Can live on a buck a day."


We don't ask for luxuries
Or even a feather bed.
But we're bound to raise the dickens
While our families are underfed.
Now the winter is on us
And the cotton picking is done,
What are we going to live on
While we're waiting for spuds to come?
This song was originally posted on

Now if you will excuse me
I'll bring my song to an end.
I've got to go and chuck a crack
Where the howling wind comes in.
The times are going to get better
And I guess you'd like to know
I'll tell you all about it,
I've joined the C. I. O.(3)


1 - The poem was turned into a song by Dust Bowl migrants at the Shafter Camp in California in 1938 run by the Farm Security Administration.

2 - The WPA was the Works Progress Administration.

3 - the CIO was the a union called the Congress of Industrial Organizations.