Hallelujah I'm A Bum

Lyrics by Harry McClintock (1897-1908). Music from "Revive Us Again" by William P. Mackay

FZ album(s) in which song has appeared


Tour(s) on which song is known to have been performed (main source: FZShows, v. 7.1)



"Hallelujah, I'm A Bum," Second Hand Songs, retr. March 3, 2023

Bud L. McKillips, who was a journalist for labor publications, contends that the words were written by an unknown member of the International Workers of the World ("IWW"). From its inception in1905, McClintock had himself been a dedicated Wobbly. During demonstrations in Spokane, Washington in 1906, the Wobblies, who were often drowned out by Salvation Army Bands sent in by business managements, adopted the strategy of writing parody lyrics to the tunes sung by the Salvation Army. McClintock was, in fact, part of the IWW songwriting team so it is far from inconceivable that he is the Wobbly who wrote this song.

Chris Fenner, "Revive Us Again," Hymnology Archive, June 14, 2019

Mackay's tune is commonly (and erroneously) attributed to John J. Husband (1760—1825). Husband was an English composer who later emigrated to Philadelphia; he had long been deceased before the emergence of this tune in the 1860s. His tunes ranging from 1789 to 1820 are documented in Nicholas Temperley's Hymn Tune Index; this is not among them. The earliest printings of this tune in the United States were either unattributed or generically labeled "English melody" or "Old melody." The attribution to Husband appeared as early as Robert Lowry's Chautauqua Carols (1878), no. 95, labeled "J.J. Husband, 1793." A contributor to the Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (1992), p. 265, said the tune was composed "around 1815 and may have been used with a secular text." Among Husband's known hymn tunes, ST. STEPHEN'S has the same opening intervals, but the similarity does not extend beyond the first couple of measures. It was first published in Psalmodia Evangelica, vol. 2 (London, 1789).

William Reid's 1866 collection clearly states Mackay had written his own tunes to accompany his texts. REVIVE US AGAIN exhibits characteristics common to gospel/revival tunes, including a harmonically simple chord structure. Additionally, the irregular meter of the text, mixing dactylic and trochaic patterns, almost certainly indicates the tune had been written by Mackay especially for his text.

A partial list of "Hallelujah, I'm A Bum" quotations, compiled by Charles Ulrich

1988: all four performances of Rhymin' Man
88/05/01 Stockholm (Penguin In Bondage)
88/05/11 Zürich (Stairway To Heaven)


Informant: Charles Ulrich

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This page updated: 2023-12-17