Written and first performed by couple musicians Grady and Hazel Cole, The Tramp on the Street became a familiar tune in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Among the various artists who recorded and popularized the song was the late Hank Williams. Have a listen to him first.
Originally a five-stanza song, singer Joan Baez modified and added to the lyrics.
When the battles are over, and the victory’s won,
Everyone mourns with the poor man’s son,
Red white and blue, and victory sweet,
And they left him to die like a tramp on the street.
As for the subject, Grady and Hazel associated the pitiful state of Lazarus the beggar with the abused and death of Jesus during the Roman regime. This time, the highlight was not on the divinity but rather, on the humanity of Jesus.
Note the description on Lazarus:
He was some mother’s darlin’, he was some mother’s son
Once he was fair and once he was young
Some mother rocked him, her darlin’ to sleep
But they left him to die like a tramp on the street.
On the latter verse, we see Jesus meeting the same fate as Lazarus.
He was Mary’s own darlin’, he was God’s chosen Son
Once He was fair and once He was young
Mary, she rocked Him, her darlin’ to sleep
But they left Him to die like a tramp on the street.
As a man, he was once a helpless child in the arms of Mary. As a man, he was no stranger to the plight of the poor and destitute. And as a man, he experienced getting starved, beaten, left in the cold, and treated as no more than a tramp on the street. In other words, Jesus identified more with the least of people than with the world’s rulers and royalties
The correlation was so effective that as a finale to the song, the Coles challenged our habitual apathy with the following words:
If Jesus should come and knock on your door/For a place to come in, or bread from your store/Would you welcome Him in, or turn Him away?
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