Hard Times

(Stephen Foster/P.D./Arr. Scott Ainslie/Cattail)

As we pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
Let us all taste the hungers of the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears:
Hard times, come again no more.

It's a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Hard times, come again no more.

As we seek mirth, and beauty, and music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say:
Hard times, come again no more.

It's a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Hard times, come again no more.

It's a song that the wind blows across the troubled wave.
It's a cry that is heard along the shore.
It's the words that are whispered beside the lowly grave
When hard times will come again no more.

It's a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Hard times, come again no more.

Stephen Foster, the author of Hard Times, Come Again No More, passed away in 1864 at the age of thirty-eight. He died famous and destitute — an alcoholic in the midst of a war — singing in bars for drinks and tips. Without the royalties that modern copyright laws provide, Foster had lost his Jeannie with the light brown hair and was a broken man. He was a great emulator of black song and, like many of his best-known works, 'Hard Times' seems to have drawn its inspiration from the wealth of slave songs Foster heard as a young man. But it also shows the mark of a man who had come to know the suffering of which he wrote. I arranged 'hard Times' for my metal-bodied Nationals, but the night before this session, Tom Chapin generously encouraged me to choose one of his many remarkable wooden guitars for this song. Playing around with these instruments, I found a new arrangement for the third verse that amplified the meaning of this song in what, for me, is a remarkable way. For this and many other things, I am deeply grateful. I've closed many evenings of blues with this song, and it seems a fitting coda here.