Step by Step

Step by step the longest march
Can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch,
Singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will
Can be accom­plished still
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none.

Round:

Tune:

Notes

Here’s what Pete Seeger says in his song­book, Where Have All the Flow­ers Gone?:

Walde­mar Hille, edit­ing the Peo­ple’s Songs bul­letin in 1948, once showed me two short vers­es he found when research­ing U.S. labor his­to­ry.

Step by step the longest march
can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch,
Singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will
Can be accom­plished still
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none.

It was print­ed in the pre­am­ble to the con­sti­tu­tion of an ear­ly coal min­er’s union. Says Wal­ly, “good verse.” Says I, “What’s the tune?”
“I don’t know,” says Wal­ly, “I sup­pose some old Irish tune might fit it. Like the song from the Irish famine of the 1840’s, ‘The Praties they Grow Small.’ ”
“Let’s try it,” says I. It fit. And has been sung to that melody ever since.

The Dig­i­tal Tra­di­tion has these same lyrics, but no tune, and says the lyrics are “From Ruthie Gor­ton, from the pre­am­ble to the con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed Minework­ers of Amer­i­ca.” The Seeger song­book says the author is unknown, from the pre­am­ble to the con­sti­tu­tion of the Amer­i­can Minework­ers Asso­ci­a­tion (1863); music arranged and adapt­ed by Walde­mar Hills and Pete Seeger (1948) from the tra­di­tion­al Irish song The Praties They Grow Small.

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