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Roll On, Columbia, Roll On


Recording | Guitar Tabs

Background: Words by Woody Guthrie, Music based on "Goodnight, Irene" (Huddie Ledbetter and John Lomax).  This song, written on the outskirts of Portland, has become the official folksong of the State of Washington.  It is a hymn to public power, and public power found greater acceptance in Washington than in Oregon.  This BPA version contains several verses straight from a cardboard history of the Indian wars in the Columbia Gorge.  The “Tom Jefferson” verse usually sung with this song was added by Michael Loring when Woody visited the Northwest in 1947.


Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through.
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew.
Canadian Northwest to the ocean so blue,
Roll on, Columbia, roll On!

CHORUS: Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,
So, Roll on, Columbia, roll on

Other great rivers add power to you,
Yakima, Snake, and the Klickitat, too,
Sandy, Willamette, and Hood River, too;
Roll on Columbia, roll On!


Year after year we had tedious trials,
Fighting the rapids at Cascades and Dalles.
The Injuns rest peaceful on Memaloose Isle;
Roll on, Columbia, Roll On!


Tom Jefferson's vision would not let him rest,
An empire he saw in the Pacific Northwest.
Sent Lewis and Clark and they did the rest;
Roll on, Columbia, Roll On!


At Bonneville now there are ships in the locks,
The waters have risen and cleared all the rocks,
Ship loads of plenty will steam past the docks,
So, Roll On, Columbia, Roll On!


It's there on your banks that you fought many a fight,
Sheridan's boys in the block house that night,
They saw us in death, but never in flight;
Roll on, Columbia, Roll On!


Our loved ones we lost there at Coe's little store,
By fireball and rifle, a dozen or more,
We won by the Mary and soldiers she bore;
Roll on, Columbia, Roll On!


Remember the trial when the battle was won,
The wild Indian warriors to the tall timber run,
We hung every Indian with smoke in his gun;
Roll on, Columbia, Roll on!