Thursday, June 14, 2012

O Berta (Prison Work Song) With Lyrics

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Revision: September 13, 2018

This post showcases a sound file of the prison work song "O Berta". My partial transcription of the lyrics for that song is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the Hollie "Bull" Dew and the other men who sang this song*. My heart goes out to all those who sung such an emotionally moving song under such terrible conditions. My thanks also to the John and Alan Lomax, the collectors & recorders of this song. My thanks also to CowboyBebop444, the uploader of this sound file.

*I'm not sure if this song was composed by those men or was an adaptation of a previously composed song.

Hat tip to Mick Pearce (MCP) from Mudcat Cafe who wrote about this song on that folk music forum.

****
SUMMARY STATEMENT ABOUT "O BERTA" (with slight revisions: July 2, 2016)
"O Berta" is an African American cane field work song that is sung by Hollie (Bull) Dew and unidentified prisoners (11-12/1947) at the infamous Parchman farm in Mississippi. http://research.culturalequity.org/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=10706

The percussive sound of the singers' swinging their hoes is the only accompaniment to the men's voices in this song.

In that song, "Berta" symbolizes the women they left behind. The men imagine seeing Berta walking toward them, give advice to Berta on who she should marry, and sing about other things they remember about their lives outside of the prison.

FEATURED VIDEO
Prison Songs - O 'Berta.avi



Uploaded by CowboyBebop444 on May 31, 2011

****
LYRICS: O BERTA
(Hollie (Bull) Dew & unidentified prisoners, Parchman Farm Prison, Mississippi, 1947)

O Berta
Well, Lord gal.
Lord, Berta
Well Lord gal, well.

Ain’t that Berta comin, down that road, well.
She walk like Berta but she, want you so, well.
She want you so baby, she want you so, well.
She walk like Berta but, she want you so, well.

O Lord Berta, well.
Lord gal.
Lord Berta.
Lord, gal, well.

I been called Berta but, the whole day long, well.
And how can she hear me when she,
She ain’t at home, well.
She ain’t at home, Berta
She ain’t at home, well.
And how can she hear me when she,
she ain’t at home well.

Well, O Berta.
Lord, gal.
(Hum, hum, hum it!)
Lord Berta.
Lord gal, well.

Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well.
well Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well.
Saturday when you marry marry to the railroad man, well.
‘Cause he gonna find you a dollar, to lay your hand, well.
To lay your hand, baby, to lay your hand well.
'Cause he gonna find you a dollar
To lay your hand well.

Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin man, well.
Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin man, well.
‘Cause Saturday when you marry don’t no farmin men well.
‘Cause he never gonna did find yoou any how*
To lay your hand baby, lay your hand, well.
Lay your hand baby, lay your hand well.
'Cause he’ll never gonna find you a dollar
To lay your hand well.

Well O, Berta.
Lord gal.
Lord, Berta.
Lord gal, well.

????
????
cause I’m gonna find somebody
To roll’em down, baby.
To roll' em down, well.
Mama won’t let nobody
To roll’em down well

Lord Berta, well.
Lord gal.
Lord Berta.
Lord gal, well.

???? ???
To hang around, well.
????
When I’m down baby
????
When I’m down, well
When I’m down, baby
When I’m down, well

Well O Berta.
Lord gal.
Lord, Berta.
Lord gal.

-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell, 6/14/2012 from sound file. Except for the lyrics in parenthesis, this transcription doesn't include any of the overlapping, echoed words that are sung throughout this song.

*unsure about the word or words
? unable to transcribe these words

Corrections and additions welcome.

****
VARIOUS COMMENTS ABOUT THE SONG "O BERTA" [UPDATE May 15, 2015]
"O Berta" is part of the family of "Alberta" ("Roberta") family of songs. One relatively common example of this song family is "Alberta, Let Your Hair Hang Low".

The song "Berta Berta" that is included in August Wilson's 1995 play "The Piano Lesson" is a form of "O Berta". (Hat tip to mrks for information about the following song)

Here's the lyrics to "Berta Berta" as published by Matt_R, 18 Feb 01 on http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=31028

BERTA, BERTA

O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal oh-ah
O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal well

Go 'head marry don't you wait on me oh-ah
Go 'head marry don't you wait on me well now
Might not want you when I go free oh-ah
Might not want you when I go free well now

O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal oh-ah
O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal well now

Raise them up higher, let them drop on down oh-ah
Raise them up higher, let them drop on down well now
Don't know the difference when the sun go down oh-ah
Don't know the difference when the sun go down well now

Berta in Meridian and she living at ease oh-ah
Berta in Meridian and she living at ease well now
I'm on old Parchman, got to work or leave oh-ah
I'm on old Parchman, got to work or leave well now

O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal oh-ah
O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal well now

When you marry, don't marry no farming man oh-ah
When you marry, don't marry no farming man well now
Everyday Monday, hoe handle in your hand oh-ah
Everyday Monday, hoe handle in your hand well now

When you marry, marry a railroad man oh-ah
When you marry, marry a railroad man well now
Everyday Sunday, dollar in your hand oh-ah
Everyday Sunday, dollar in your hand well now

O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal oh-ah
O Lord Berta Berta O Lord gal well

Taken from the play The Piano Lesson by August Wilson, as written in the text and as sung in the Hallmark Hall of Fame by Charles S. Dutton, Courtney B. Vance, Carl Gordon and Lou Myers.
-snip-
Here's that sound file:
"Berta, Berta" by Branford Marsalis



jazzman amos, Uploaded on Mar 21, 2009

From his 1992 release titled "I Heard You Twice The First Time",...here is the GREAT Branford Marsalis featuring vocals by Charles Dutton, Carl Gordon and Roscoe Rocky Carroll from "The Roc". This classic track is from August Wilsons outstanding play "The Piano Lesson".
-snip-
Except for a change in names, "O Berta" has the same chorus as the African American Blues (prison song)"Rosie", and the "every Sunday dollar in your hand" line in "Rosie" is similar to the "lay dollar in your hand" lines in "O Berta". The tunes used for these two songs are also similar. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/05/rosie-african-american-prison-work-song.html for a post about that song.

Also, click http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=8067 for the lyrics to another version of "Rosie" that is entitled "Rosie O Ho".

"Old Dollar Mamie" is another prison Blues song
that is related to "O Berta". Click http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=14515 for the lyrics to that song.

**
With regard to the word "well" at the end of a number of lines in this song such as "O Lord Berta, well" and "Lord, gal, well":

African Americans still use "well" as an affirming word in religious & non-religious songs. In those contexts, I believe that "well" has the same or a similar meaning as "yeah". "Well" is also used as a response to speech, including conversations and sermons. A longer form of this affirming use of "well" is the phrase "Well, alright now".

**
[Slight revision July 2, 2016]
I wrote this comment on that sound file's YouTube discussion thread in response to the song's uploader's comment that it's a shame that African Americans aren't more familiar with this song (and presumably, other prison work songs)
"I think that some of the blame for this is that we African Americans don't treasure most of our old time music - in part because we are forward looking people more interested in new music forms instead of old ones and in part because we don't want to be reminded of the memories of terrible times such as slavery & chain gangs. But there is so much richness of spirit in many of these songs.I appreciate them and honor their composers/performers."
-snip- Revision ended

**
As an aside, I wonder if the words "Berta but" in the line "She walk like Berta but she, want you so, well" had any influence whatsoever on the Jimmy Castor's 1975 Pop & Funk song "Bertha But Boogie".

Among African Americans, a person with a "Bertha Butt" usually means a female teenager or woman (usually a Black female) with a large, protruding behind (butt). I wonder if that phrase has its source in this "O Berta" song.

Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LQJYgs1sxc for a sound file of the "Bertha Butt Boogie".

****
UPDATE September 13, 2018: LYRICS FOR THE AFRICAN AMERICAN PRISON WORK SONG "O BERTA*

O BERTA

O Berta, well, o Lord, gal
Lord, Berta, well, Lord, gal, well

Ain’t that Berta coming down that road, well
She walk like Berta but she walks too slow, well
She walks too slow, baby, she walks too slow, well
She walk like Berta but she, she walks too slow, well

Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

I've been calling Berta, buddy, the whole day long, well
And how can she hear me when she, she ain’t at home, well
She ain’t at home, baby, she ain’t at home, well
And how can she hear me when she, she ain’t at home, well

Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
[Spoken: Hum, hum, hum it!]
Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
(he'll have) on Sundays a dollar to lay in your hand, well
To lay in your hand, baby, to lay in your hand, well
(he'll have) on Sundays a dollar to lay your hand, well

Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no, no farmin man,
Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin man, well
‘Cause Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin men-eh
‘Cause he never did have money for to, to lay in your hand, well
To lay in your hand, baby, lay in your hand
Never did have money for to, to lay in your hand, well

Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

(Bury 'em deep) when they, they start gettin' down, well
(Mama won't never 'low to, to roll em down, well)
To roll 'em down, baby, to roll 'em down
Mama wouldn't 'low nobody to roll’em down, well

Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

When you're gon' leave 'em, don't you hang around, well
[or they would] catch you or hang you, when I'm (down/found), well
When I’m (down/found), baby, when I'm (down/found)
[Or they would] catch you, hang you, when I'm (down/found), well


Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
Lord, Berta, Lord, well

Transcription by Lorenzo Vanelli, University of Bologna, Italy [September 13, 2018]
-snip-
Lorenzo Vanelli, thank you very much for sharing your research on this song and thanks for your transcription.

Pancocojams visitors, please read Lorenzo Vanelli's comments below about the African American prison song "O Berta". Here's two excerpts from two separate comments:
"...But this is just my interpretation: I have no intention of pushing my perspective further than it can reasonably and respectfully go. As I said, the document is very opaque, and the singers could have wanted these words to not be perfectly comprehensible, to avoid retaliation from the guards. To accept and underline the veil of opacity put up by the singers is another way of pointing at the institutionalized violence that they faced."....

"A side note: the last two stanzas are very hard, the parts in (round parentheses) are a suggestion of what I feel like could be there, but am not sure about. The very last stanza is also weird in the way the singers seem to hit a hard spot in the second verse, the one with the word "hang", which by the way you were right in your transcription, I hear it too now.
If you think about it, that's a verse that could get the singers in real trouble. They were black men imprisoned in a Jim Crow state farm singing to a white researcher from Washington D.C. and in the presence of the white guards overlooking the recording, who had absolute power over them and could hold them accountable for every single world they let out. I have the feeling that the singers stumbled "on purpose", as the line they had in mind was not convenient at that moment, and could have got them in trouble, so they murmured something nearly un-intelligible instead. But the key words "catch you" and "hang you" are more or less audible.
Also, the last repeated emistichs "when I'm down", the way the singers spell "down" sounds slightly off. Could it be "found" instead of "down"? I left the two options in the text, feel free to pick the one you deem more correct."...
-snip-
Here are links to two other examples of "O Berta" that Loresnzo Vanelli cited in his comments:

http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4236 Alberta (Berta Berta)", by Leroy Miller and unidentified singers, recorded by A. Lomax in 1959 in Parchman ...around 03:40 onward

http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4643; around 00:40 onward

Here's a link to a version of the very closely related prison work song "Rosie":

http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=10539
-snip-
Please also read other comments that are found in this post's discussion thread. Thanks to all those who have shared their comments about this song.
-end of September 13, 2018 update-

****
OTHER RELATED LINKS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_State_Penitentiary

**
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=121223 "Lyr & Orig: Alberta, Let your hair hang"

****
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

22 comments:

  1. Hello, thanks for all the work,

    I found another version on a CD by Branford Marsalis. Actually it`s almost the same version as in the mentioned video of Wilson`s play.
    The song is on the album "I heard you twice the first time" from 1992.
    Bless, greets from northern Germany.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that information, mrks!

      I updated this post with a sound file of that song which I wasn't previously aware of.

      Youtube is amazing, isn't it as is the internet itself for its ability to connect music lovers all around the world.

      Thanks again!


      Delete
  2. These lyrics are close, but very inaccurate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,

      Please share the lyrics to this song that you know.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  3. I would love to have seen the play version of "The Piano Lesson". I did see the 1995 movie and the O Berta song was one of my favorite moments in it. I loved the bond the African American men shared which is no longer as prevalent as it was then. It is growing but not as appreciated my the new generations. I also enjoyed listening to "Berta, Berta" by Branford Marsalis what wonderful history in this song and they sang it with feeling and emotion. Wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments, A.M. Coffee.

      I "hear" what you are saying about the bond between Black men then and now. But maybe things were never as good as we think they were in the past. At any rate, there's much work to be done on that front and so many others...

      Delete
  4. I am trying to find the lyrics that Roc sings on Branford's version, cant find it anywhere? Can you post them or a link?
    Thank you for such a great job!
    Daniel Danielson Harlem NYC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Daniel Danielson.

      I updated this post to add the lyrics to "Berta Berta" that were performed in that August Wilson play.

      I found those lyrics on the Mudcat folk music forum (link given above).

      Delete
  5. Hi,
    I live in France and our choir leader has chosen the Betty Bonifassi version of this song. I find it a very powerful and evocative song but I don't fully understand the lyrics which I think Bonifassi has adapted. As the only native English speaking person my French choir friends naturally ask me to explain the song. Can anyone help me. The Bonifassi version has a line 'She might not want you when she, got free, Well well well.' That seems to imply that a male prisoner is sad that a female prisoner lover is about to be released, and may not want him when she is free. But that seems to change the original thrust of the song which from this web pages suggests it was about male prisoners longing for the women who they had left behind. Also wanted to check on the comment about Berta but. It sounded a bit sexist but is it actually accurate. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Gite de Piquetalen.

      It's good to know a choir in France is singing "Berta".
      I found the Betty Bonifassi version of that song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60SmxwRfzsA

      Here are the words that I hear in that version:
      Oh, Lord Berta Berta
      Oh, Lord gal

      Oh, Lord Berta Berta
      Oh, Lord gal

      Is that Berta comin
      Down the road (well)
      She walk like a Berta
      But she gonna marry to the railroad man.
      She want you so (well)
      She want you so (well)
      She might not want you
      When she go free (well well well)

      Oh Lord Berta Berta
      Oh Lord gal
      (oh well)

      [repeat these lines several times]

      I've been calling Alberta
      the whole day long
      (Well)
      And how can she hear me when she
      just say "I'm home." (well)
      She might not want you when she
      when she goes free
      (Well)
      And how can she hear me when she doesn't
      __ at me.

      Oh Lord Berta Berta
      Oh Lord gal (oh well)
      Oh Lord Berta Berta
      Oh Lord gal (well)

      Saturday when you gonna marry
      to a railroad man
      (well)
      "Cause he gonna find you a dollar
      to lay in your hand.
      Oh!

      Oh Lord, Berta Berta
      Oh Lord gal
      (Oh well)

      [repeat these lines several times]

      ****
      I think that the line "She might not want you when she go free" is a mis-translation. Instead, (as you wrote in your comment) to be true to the song, the line should have been "She might not want you when you go free" -meaning when the man who is singing gets out of prison.

      The word "well" in the song is an interjection that means something like "Un hun", "yeah" and doesn't have the same meaning as if someone was sick and now he or she is feeling better and says "I am feeling well".

      The voice of the song is a man who is in prison. He's the one who sings "I been calling Berta or I've been calling Alberta.
      I think that the line instead of "I've been calling Berta but" that you wrote. However, I'm not sure if that line is correct.

      I may have mentioned in this post that there was a Rock and Roll song called "Bertha butt boogie". That 1974 record was supposed to be a funny song about a woman with a big butt (behind, ass). It could be considered sexist. However, some people (male as well as female) think that having a big butt makes a woman attractive. For those people, it is a compliment to say that a woman has a big butt. However, a woman with a Bertha butt actually was an insult because that meant that her butt was too big.

      It's just a guess that the "Bertha Butt" song came from prison song "Berta". I don't know if that is true or not, but it might be true because the early singers (and Betty Bonifassi) sound like they are saying Bertha but.

      Here's the link to Jimmy Castor's Bertha Butt Boogie song
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA0WUnp7xzE

      Thanks again Gite.

      Good luck with your choir's performance!!

      Please feel free to ask any other questions about songs with English words. Hopefully, other pancocojams reader and/or I can help you.

      Delete
    2. I meant to write "I think those are the words that are being sung in that line instead of [the line] "I've been calling Berta but" that you wrote.

      Delete
  6. Thank you very much for your reply. I will share it with our choir teacher.

    Thanks,

    Anton

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks so much for this. This song has been somewhere at the back of my mind since the early 90s when I lost the cassette that contained it. Good Stuff!

    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Veronica.

      I learned about this song by internet surfing for information about African American prison songs. It's great that the internet also provides a way to share this song with other folks.

      Delete
  8. Dear Azizi Powell,
    I'd like to suggest a correction. I've been working on African American prison songs transcriptions for the past 5 years, and I believe the lines at the beginning to be "she walks like Berta, but she walks too slow". It seemed to be one of a serie of sentence structures in use in the prison contexts and levee camps from the thirties to the fifties, and may be found in other songs. For example, in Levee Camp Reminescence (the original 8 min version, not the 5 min one on youtube) by Forrest City Joe he sings a stanza with a similat structure: "She walked like medic, but she walked too slow". The meaning of these songs is opaque, but I believe "medic" in this contexts might stand for a gun (in another song a weapon is called a "forty-five medic", I suppose it could be a wry remark on the fact that a gun can end your pains..), and the stanza could be paraphrased as "she run like a bullet, but she was not fast enough". Similarly, in the case of this worksong, Berta could be not only the idealized image of a partner, but that of a saviour. In a holler from Parchman, Cole Bridges Lee sung about Rosie (another name for the idealized woman nicknamed Berta) coming "with a palm in her hand" to ask for the release of her man. The line could then perhaps mean "she's coming here, I recognize her from her walk, but she's not coming fast enough".
    As I said, the lyrics are very opaque as a response to the violent regime of oppression and because of the research politics that contextualized the production of the documentation, and my interpretation could be wrong, but for the transcription I'm reasonably sure to be on the right track.
    Hope that was of interest, feel free to write me if you have questions.
    Lorenzo Vanelli, University of Bologna, Italy
    lorvan@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just a small addition to what I said, as I went back to work and found this note. Another point where the sentence structure can be heard in a more clear way is in "Alberta (Berta Berta)", by Leroy Miller and unidentified singers, recorded by A. Lomax in 1959 in Parchman. In this version, around 03:40 onward:
      http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4236
      Here they spelled the "-lks t-" in "walks too slow" more distinctively, making it easier to hear.

      Delete
    2. Another example:
      http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4643
      around 00:40 onward

      Delete
  9. Another couple of suggestions. I must be honest, I'm way less sure of these ones.
    I'd transcribe the verses of the central stanza with "lay in your hand", rather than "lay your hand": the "in" is not particularly hearable, but it makes more sense in regard to the act of giving a dollar, and its pronounciation could easily meld in the previous word.
    Lastly, I hear something in the first verses of the last stanza (the missing ones) that could be "when you're going to leave 'em don't you hang around, well", and in the next one "Lord, they're going to catch you when you, when I'm down [etc]".
    Those could possibly be a way of saying "when put the work tools down, or in other words when you are free again, go far away from here, for your own safety", and the next one, which may contain a slight error in the use of pronouns as it was performed extemporaneously, could be a possible remark on why it's better to leave the country as soon as they get out of there. The verse could address the risk of being the target of police enforcement of Jim Crow vagrancy laws (hence the "when I'm down" part).
    But this is just my interpretation: I have no intention of pushing my perspective further than it can reasonably and respectfully go. As I said, the document is very opaque, and the singers could have wanted these words to not be perfectly comprehensible, to avoid retaliation from the guards. To accept and underline the veil of opacity put up by the singers is another way of pointing at the institutionalized violence that they faced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry if I keep commenting, but I'm working on this very subject this morning, and finding references as time goes. I found a source that confirm the "in your hand": in this version of Rosie, Cook and unidentified singers clearly split the sentence in two modules and avoid "lay", reducing it to "every Sunday [a] dollar in your hand". End of first stanza, around 00:20 onward.
      http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=10539

      Delete
    2. Greetings, Lorenzo Vanelli.

      I really appreciate each of your comments.

      Would you please write your transcription of the lyrics to this song including the "she walks like Bertha but she walks too slow" line, the "in your hand" line, and more.

      I would like to add that transcription to the post itself with acknowledgement to you, and with the hyperlinked citations, and with a note that people should refer to your comments in this discussion thread.

      I don't feel confident about my ability to do this transcription myself with the corrections that you suggested.

      Thanks again!


      Delete
    3. Pancocojams Editor's Note: When I deleted a comment that Lorenso Vanelli wrote that he himself had deleted, it removed the reply to that comment. Thankfully, I had saved that on Word before I pressed the delete button.

      Here's that comment:

      Lorenzo Vanelli September 13, 2018 at 12:25 PM
      This comment has been removed by the author.

      Replies

      Lorenzo Vanelli September 13, 2018 at 12:40 PM
      (previous comment removed to correct a couple of errors in spelling)

      Dear Azizi Powell,

      I will do my best and try. Here it is.
      A side note: the last two stanzas are very hard, the parts in (round parentheses) are a suggestion of what I feel like could be there, but am not sure about. The very last stanza is also weird in the way the singers seem to hit a hard spot in the second verse, the one with the word "hang", which by the way you were right in your transcription, I hear it too now.
      If you think about it, that's a verse that could get the singers in real trouble. They were black men imprisoned in a Jim Crow state farm singing to a white researcher from Washington D.C. and in the presence of the white guards overlooking the recording, who had absolute power over them and could hold them accountable for every single world they let out. I have the feeling that the singers stumbled "on purpose", as the line they had in mind was not convenient at that moment, and could have got them in trouble, so they murmured something nearly un-intelligible instead. But the key words "catch you" and "hang you" are more or less audible.
      Also, the last repeated emistichs "when I'm down", the way the singers spell "down" sounds slightly off. Could it be "found" instead of "down"? I left the two options in the text, feel free to pick the one you deem more correct.
      I also slightly modified the graphic subdivision in verses to be more consistent with the music patterns. Apart from that, the greatest majority of the content is the same that you suggested.


      O Berta, well, o Lord, gal
      Lord, Berta, well, Lord, gal, well

      Ain’t that Berta coming down that road, well
      She walk like Berta but she walks too slow, well
      She walks too slow, baby, she walks too slow, well
      She walk like Berta but she, she walks too slow, well

      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

      I've been calling Berta, buddy, the whole day long, well
      And how can she hear me when she, she ain’t at home, well
      She ain’t at home, baby, she ain’t at home, well
      And how can she hear me when she, she ain’t at home, well

      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
      [Spoken: Hum, hum, hum it!]
      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

      Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
      Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
      Saturday when you marry, marry to the railroad man, well
      (he'll have) on Sundays a dollar to lay in your hand, well
      To lay in your hand, baby, to lay in your hand, well
      (he'll have) on Sundays a dollar to lay your hand, well

      Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no, no farmin man,
      Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin man, well
      ‘Cause Saturday when you marry, don’t marry no farmin men-eh
      ‘Cause he never did have money for to, to lay in your hand, well
      To lay in your hand, baby, lay in your hand
      Never did have money for to, to lay in your hand, well

      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

      (Bury 'em deep) when they, they start gettin' down, well
      (Mama won't never 'low to, to roll em down, well)
      To roll 'em down, baby, to roll 'em down
      Mama wouldn't 'low nobody to roll’em down, well

      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal, well

      When you're gon' leave 'em, don't you hang around, well
      [or they would] catch you or hang you, when I'm (down/found), well
      When I’m (down/found), baby, when I'm (down/found)
      [Or they would] catch you, hang you, when I'm (down/found), well


      Lord, Berta, Lord, gal
      Lord, Berta, Lord, well

      Delete