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Talking Tenant Blues, song lyrics

Song: Talking Tenant Blues
Lyrics: Mike Rawson(2)

Music: to the tune of "The Walking Blues"
Year: 1977
Genre: Folk
Country: USA

Yesterday, out on a walk,
I heard my landlord making a squawk.
"Oh tenant, my costs have risen,
And if I don't pay them, they'll send me to prison."
Violins started playing,
I had to get out my hanky.
Tears were rolling down that poor man's face.

He said, "Mike this hurts me more than you,
But there's really nothing that I can do.
I'm going to have to raise your rent,
It's just a matter of common sense.
It's just a few common cents a day, Mike.
I few bucks a week, buddy.
That'll be another hundred dollars a month."
This song was originally posted on
Well he had the contract in his paws,
And he told me about the "no pets" clause.
I said I've got mice as big as cats,
He said, "Aw son, we don't charge for that."
Said, "my fridge is leaking on the floor,
And they don't make parts for it anymore."
He said, "Oh you're the one that's got the antique!
That's be another five a week."
Five a week! The man's mind's an antique.
Too bad we can't auction it off and pay some of this rent.

He said that soon he'd make repairs,
As my son fell down the broken stairs.
And as the child cried on my sleeve,
He said, "Keep that kid, you'll have to leave."
"This is an adult community, son.
Little kids just cause trouble.
Didn't you know that?"
I looked at my boy and said, "No, I didn't know that."
This song was originally posted on
Well my face turned red, and I had to say,
now "Who's buyin' this place anyway?
Us tenants are buying this place. That's who.
Us tenants are buying our homes for you!
And when the price is right, you will sell,
For twice what you paid, I heard tell.
You'll sell to another landlord friend,
And we'll turn around and buy it again!"
"Now wait a damn minute," said the landlord,
"I work really, really hard for my money."
"Now wait a damn minute," I said,
"We work really, really hard for your money too."

We pay water, garbage, juice(3) and gas;
Cleaning deposit, first and last.
Why, I had to put down almost a grand,
before I could even use your can.
Then it didn't work anyway...
Called you up to fix it and got a recording:
"Tenants, I'll be gone 'till June.
Send your rent to P.O. Box 25254 Palm Springs, California."
This song was originally posted on
Well then he knelt and started to weep:
Said, "Yes, I make money while I sleep,
And I'm really greatful to you all,
If there's anything I can do, just call!
Why, what would I do without you tenants?"
That's a good question... Probably wouldn't sleep so much!

So all you tenants listen well,
From Newark to the "I" Hotel.
There's a lot of work, that we gotta do,
If we're to own our homes and our lives too.
We've got to put things under control:
A little rent control,
Condo control,
Speculation control,
But most of all, most of all,
OUR control!


1 - Song transcribed, 2011

2 - Mike Rawson of the Oakland Tenants Union (California, USA) in the 1970's.

3 - "Juice" was slang for electricity.