You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive

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In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That’s the place where I trace my bloodline
And it’s there I read on a hillside gravestone
You will never leave Harlan alive

Oh my granddad’s dad walked down Katahrins Mountain
And he asked Tillie Helton to be his bride
Said won’t you walk with me out of the mouth of this holler
Or we’ll never leave Harlan alive

    Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
    And the sun goes down about three in the day
    And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinking
    And you spend your life just thinkin’ of how to get away

No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
‘Til a man from the Northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills he said I’ll pay ya for your minerals
But he never left Harlan alive

Granny sold out cheap and they moved out west of Pineville
To a farm where big Richland River winds
I bet they danced them a jig laughed and sang a new song
Who said we’d never leave Harlan alive

But the times got hard and tobacco wasn’t selling
And ole granddad knew what he’d do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal and sent the money back to granny
But he never left Harlan alive