From "No Direction Home" by Robert Shelton, page 272: "During 1961, Dylan used to sing 'Hard Times In The Country', a rural protest song about the rough life of a tenant farmer with an exploitative landlord. I traced that song to 'Penny's Farm', which Pete Seeger recorded in 1950 on Folkways. Seeger's George Penny was as mean a landlord as ever drew breath. After living with 'Hard Times' and 'Penny's Farm', Dylan gradually remade their words and melody completely into 'Maggie's Farm'".
One direct link between Penney's and Maggie's farm is:
Haven't old George Penney got a flatterin' mouth? Move you to the country in a little log house, Got no windows but the cracks in the wall, | \|/ V I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more. [...] His bedroom window It is made out of bricks.
Given what Shelton writes above, are we to take it that "Hard Times In The Country" differs significantly from "Penney's Farm"? Can anyone identify the version of the song Dylan was most likely to have sung "during 1961"? As far as I know, on record the closest we have to Dylan singing "Hard Times In The Country" is "Hard Times In New York Town" but there is no mention in that song of a tenant farmer with an exploitative landlord (literally that is).
And what about the influence which is usually cited for "Hard Times In New York Town": "Hard Times In The Country Working On Ketty's Farm" (Traditional)? Is this simply a variant of "Penney's Farm" (or vice versa)? Does the lyric or melody provide greater insight with respect to Dylan's reworking?
(the above is by Ben Taylor)
Down On Penney's Farm / Bentley Boys (Traditional?) Source: "The Folk Songs Of North America In The English Language" by Alan Lomax, 1966 edition (first published 1960), Cassall, London. Song number 147, page 286. [From: p. 287 of "Our Singing Country", Lomax (Macmillan, N.Y., 1941). As sung by the Bentley Boys, Columbia 1556. For similar songs, see Greenway FF 216 and note on "Hard Times".] Come you ladies and you gentlemen, and listen to my song, I'll sing it to you right, but you may think it wrong, May make you mad, but I mean no harm, It's just about the renters on Penney's Farm. Hard times in the country, Down on Penney's farm. You move out on Penney's farm, Plant a little crop of 'baccer and a little crop of corn, Come around to see you, gonna 'plit an' plot, Get a chattel mortgage on ever'thin' you got. Hard times in the country, Down on Penney's farm. Haven't old George Penney got a flatterin' mouth? Move you to the country in a little log house, Got no windows but the cracks in the wall, He'll work you in the summer and starve you in the fall. Hard times in the country, Down on Penney's farm. George Penney's renters comin' to town With their hands in their pockets and their heads hangin' down, Go in the store and the merchant will say, 'Your mortgage is due and I'm lookin' for my pay.' Hard times in the country, Down on Penney's farm. Down in the pocket with a tremblin' hand, 'Can't pay you now, but I'll pay you when I can.'... Then to the telephone, the merchant makes a call, They'll put you on the chain-gang, can't pay at all. Hard times in the country, Down on Penney's farm.
(the above is by Ben Taylor)
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