Samson and Delilah

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

Sung regularly by Bob Weir with the Grateful Dead from the mid-1970s onwards. He varied the lyrics a little: the main differences are noted below.

If I had my way
I would tear this whole building down

Delilah was a woman, she was fine and fair
She had good looks - God knows - and coal black hair (note 1)
Delilah she gained old Samson's mind
When first he saw this woman, she looked so fine (note 2)

Delilah she climbed up on Samson's knee (note 3)
Said tell me where your strength lies, if you please
Then she spoke so kind, she talked so fair
That Samson said, Delilah you cut off my hair
You can shave my head, clean as my hand
My strength become as natural as any old man

Chorus
If I had my way
If I had my way
If I had my way
I would tear this whole building down

You read about Samson, all from his birth (note 4)
He was the strongest man ever has lived on earth
One day while Samson was walking along
Looked down on the ground he saw an old jaw bone
Then he stretched out his arm and his chains broke like threads
And when he got to move, ten thousand was dead

[chorus]

Now Samson and the lion, they got in attack
And Samson he crawled up on the lion's back
You read about this lion, he killed a man with his paws
Samson got hands up round the lion's jaws
He ripped that beast, killed him dead
And the bees made honey in the lion's head

[chorus]
[chorus]
I would tear this whole building down
Notes
(1) "She had lovely looks ..." in some versions
(2) in some early versions (eg 17 June 1976), Bob Weir sings "When first he saw this woman, could be the last time." In later versions, it sounds as if he sings "... he couldn't believe his mind"
(3) sometimes "Delilah she sat down on Samson's knee"
(4) in some versions, Bob Weir sings "... all from his works." [Thanks to Ben Anderson for help with the lyrics to this song].

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
      9 Jun 1976 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 5
     18 Jun 1976 Download Series Vol 4
     24 Sep 1976 Dave's Picks Vol 4
     28 Sep 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 20
      9 Oct 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 33
     10 Oct 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 33
     31 Dec 1976 Live At The Cow Palace
     studio 1977 Terrapin Station (note 5)
     11 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     12 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     13 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     15 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     17 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     19 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 29
     21 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 29
     22 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 3
     28 May 1977 To Terrapin: Hartford '77
      7 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
      9 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
      3 Sep 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 15
      5 Nov 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 34
      5 Feb 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 18
     31 Dec 1978 The Closing Of Winterland (DVD & CD)
     10 Oct 1980 Dead Set
     30 Oct 1980 Dead Ahead (DVD)
     30 Nov 1980 Dave's Picks Volume 8
      1 Nov 1985 Dick's Picks Vol 21
     31 Mar 1988 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 2
      5 Apr 1988 30 Days Of The Dead (2012)
     15 Mar 1990 Terrapin Station (Limited Edition)
     22 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (note 6)
      6 May 1990 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)
      8 Jul 1990 View From The Vault (video/DVD & CD soundtrack)
     16 Sep 1990 Dick's Picks Vol 9
     31 Mar 1991 Dick's Picks Vol 17
     16 Dec 1992 Dick's Picks Vol 27
     26 May 1993 Road Trips Vol 2, No 4

Recordings from dead.net Tapers Section

"The Dead" Concert Recordings

Furthur Digital Downloads and CDs

Ratdoglive CDs and downloads

Phil Lesh and Friends Digital Download Series

Bob Weir Solo Acoustic Live!

Mickey Hart Downloads
 
Other Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     1993 Roots Of The Grateful Dead Rev Gary Davis
     1996 Music Of The Grateful Dead David Murray Octet
     1997 Pickin' On The Grateful Dead David West et al
     1999 Terrapin Joe Gallant & Illuminati
     2010 Blottopia XI Day 1 Mr Blotto
     1 Dec 2012 A Buckdancer's Choice Mickey Hart Band

Notes
(5) also on the compilation "The Arista Years"
(6) also on the compilation So Glad You Made It

Roots
Bob Weir learnt this song from Rev Gary Davis, and the version the Dead do is based closely on Davis's. But the song's origins go back much further than that. It is first known of as a song sheet ("ballet") sold on the street in the early decades of the century - with the title "Samson Tore The Building Down".
I have seen references to the Paramount Jubilee Singers having recorded this in 1923. But I think this is in fact a reference to their recording of "My Soul Is A Witness For My Lord", which includes the lyrics:
You read about Samson from his birth
He could have been the strongest man on earth
Way back yonder in the ancient times
He killed ten thousand Philistines

Samson was a man, been wandering about
No one found his strength without
Not until his wife fell on her knees
Said, tell me where your strength lies, if you please

Samnson's wife she talked so fair
Samson said the strength lies in my hair
You cut off my hair, clean as my hands
My strength will become as a natural man's

Samson is a witness for my Lord
Samson is a witness for my Lord
Samson is a witness for my Lord
My soul is a witness for my Lord
The best-known early recording of the something nearer the Gary Davis song is by Blind Willie Johnson under the title "If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Building Down," from 1927. But there are at least three other recordings available from about the same time: "If I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down" by Rev T.E.Weems; "Samson And The Woman" by Rev J.M.Gates; and "If I Had My Way" by Rev T.T.Rose.

This is the version by Rev. T.E.Weems (thanks to Eric Levy for the transcript):
Brothers and sisters, I'm gonna sing a song tonight.
And the subject of this song is, "If I had my way (Amen)
I would tear the building down" (Yes).
That old building of sin that troubled the Christian past (Yes sir),
I will tear it down (Amen).
I want the whole congregation to sing with uplifted voices.

If I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way
I would tear this building down

Delilah was a woman she was fine and fair
Pleasant looks, and her coal black hair
Delilah gained old Samson's mind
When he first saw the woman she looked so fine (Amen)

Whether he went to Timothy I cannot tell
But the daughters of Timothy pleased Samson so well (Yes)
Samson told his father just to go and see
If you can get that beautiful woman for me (Amen)

Cryin' if I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way
I would tear this building down

Samson went to town and he stayed too late
They wanted to kill him so they made him wait (Yeah)
Now wasn't Samson very strong
He pulled up the gate boards and he carried them along (Amen)

Samson he burned down a field of corn
They looked for Samson but he was gone (Yes)
So many thousand they formed a plot
It was not many days before he was caught (Yes sir)

They bound his hands while walking along
He looked on the ground and saw an old jawbone (Amen)
He moved his arms and the ropes popped like thread
When he got through playin' three thousand was dead (Amen)

Cryin' if I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way
I would tear this building down

Samson was a man very large in size
They overpowered Samson and they plucked out his eyes
Oh just listen to this tale
They taken old Samson and they put him in jail (Amen)

Let me tell you what the Philistines done
They took him to the building for to have some fun (Yes)
I was told that the building was high from the ground
Samson braced against the building and it tumbled down (Amen)

Cryin' if I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way (Lordy Lordy Lord)
If I had my way
I would tear this building down
This is the later, and better known, version by Blind Willie Johnson (thanks to Anita Cantor for the transcription):
Well, if I had my way
I had-a, oh wicked ones
If I had-a, ah Lord, tear this building down

Weh-ell!
Delilah was a woman fine an' fair
Her pleasant looks-a, her coal black hair
Delilah gained old Samson's mind
A-first saw the woman that looked so fine

A-well went Timnathy, I can't tell (note 2)
A daughter of Timnathy, a-pleased him well
A-Samson told his father, 'I'm goin a-a-a'
(Help) me Lord

If I had my way
Well, if a had-a, oh wicked ones
If I had-a, ah Lord, tear this building down

Weh-ell!
Samson's mother replied to him
'Can't you find a woman of your kind and kin?'
'Samson, will you please your mother's mind?'
Go'd and married that-a Philistine

Let me tell you what, old Samson

Well, he roared at the lion, the lion run
Samson was the first man the lion attack
He caught the lion and got upon his back
A-written that he killed a man with his ...
And Sampson had his hand in the lion's jaws

If I had my way
If I had-a, oh wicked ones
If I had-a, ah Lord, tear this building down

'Well, your riddle please, a-tell it to me'
'A-how an eater became forth meat?'
'Well, your riddle please, a-tell it to me'
'A-how strong of it came forth sweet?
Deliah got his army after him
Well, the bees made-a honey in the lion hair

Well, if I had my way
Well, if I had-a, oh wicked ones
If I had-a, ah Lord, tear this building down

So men in Sorek a-formed a plot
Not many days 'fore Samson was caught
A-bind his hands whilst a-walkin' along
A-looked on the ground and found a lil' jawbone
He moved his arm, ropes a-pop like thread
Dropped those threads, three thousand were dead

Lord, If I had my way
Well, if I had a, oh wicked ones
If I had a, ah Lord, tear this building down

Weh-ell!
Samson's strength though they never found out
'Till they began to wonder about
A-'till his wife sat up upon his knee
'A-tell me where your strength lie, if you please?'

Samson's wife she a-talked so fair
Told his wife cut off-a his hair
'Shave my head, clean as your hand
'Till I become a natural man!'

Lord, If I had my way
Well, if I had a, oh wicked ones
If I had a, ah Lord, tear this building down
Notes
(2) it sounds as if Johnson sings "Timothy", but the Bible (Judges 14) says "And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines."


Futher Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com

 


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