I’ve Been Working On the Railroad Lyrics and Chords

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah!

Do you remember hearing this as a little one… it brings back fond memories for me. Of course I can’t really remember where I heard it in the first place, probably from some ’80s tv show. 

I asked my 14 year old son if he knew it and he said he didn’t. But we played through it a few times just to fool around and our little kids loved it.

D                                        D          G                      D

I’ve been working on the railroad, All the live-long day,
 D                                         D                     E                   A 

I’ve been working on the railroad, Just to pass the time away.
 A7                                           D        G                                  D                          

Can’t you hear the whistle blowing, Rise up so early in the morn;
G                                               D           A                       D 

Can’t you hear the captain shouting, “Dinah, blow your horn!”

D                                      G                                  A                                        D 

Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow your horn?
D                                      G                                  A                                        D 

Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow your horn?
D                                                  D         D                                     A             

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, Someone’s in the kitchen I know

D                                                  G        A                       A7    D

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, Strummin’ on the old banjo!
                 D                 G            D                 A

A playin’ fee, fi, fiddle y-i-o, Fee fi  fiddle y-i-o
D           G                   A                      A7   D                   

Fee, fi,  fiddle y-i-o, Strummin’ on the old banjo.

Who Sings the Song I’ve Been Working on the Railroad?

There are two artists that you’ve probably heard most commonly who sing the song I’ve been Working on the Railroad, Raffi and John Denver.

Raffi, who is a very well known Canadian children’s song artist, released the song on his album tiled “More Singable Songs” in 1977.

The second most likely artist you may have heard the song performed by is John Denver, a legendary American singer and songwriter who is known for his political activism and decades of performance in the American folk music scene.

Of course, this old song has been recorded by many different artists and it’s quite likely that you’ve heard it performed by someone else. If you’re unlucky enough, you might have heard the version performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks…

What is the Meaning of the Song I’ve Been Working on the Railroad?

The meaning of the song I’ve been working on the Railroad is a bit controversial, and not completely known although there are several theories including themes of exploitation, slavery and racism.

Of course if you just take into consideration the lyrics of the first verse “all the live long day” it might be something fairly innocent, that railroad workers were dedicated to building this amazing network of transportation.

But you might also consider that hard labor projects, like building a railroad, were typically done by slave labor especially in the southern United States. It’s also believed that there was a large exploitation of Chinese immigrants who worked on the railway system as the transcontinental railroad was completed.(1)

There is also some speculation that the verses about Dinah describe a slave who is forced to do housework, or work in the kitchen. I’ve read that Dinah was a generalized name for a black slave woman who works in the kitchen most commonly, and that that generalization was in use prior to the release of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which illustrates a messy kitchen slave named Dinah.

Where Does the Name Dinah Come From?

The name Dinah also comes from the hebrew language, the ancient language of the Isrealites that part of the bible was written in, meaning vindicated, or judged of God. Dinah first shows up in Genesis during the story of Jacob. Dinah is the only daughter born to Jacob’s 2nd wife, Leah.

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