Day 109, Song 129

Sam Hinton

Old Man Atom

Sam Hinton was a folk singer and marine biologist from Crockett, Texas. He regularly taught University of California courses for more than 35 years.

After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Vern Partlow, a newspaper reporter and musician from Illinois, wrote this anti-nuclear protest song. Sam Hinton recorded the song in 1950 with the small California label, ABC Eagle. Hinton was a marine biologist, calligrapher, artist, and musician from Crockett, Texas. An influential New York DJ played Hinton's recording of the song on his show, and the overwhelming listener response spurred Columbia to acquire the song, making it Hinton's first commercial recording. Hinton would go on to record numerous other songs and to publish several books on marine biology. Partlow would serve as a public relations consultant to the California Attorney General races of Edmund G. "Pat" Brown. He was later blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.


Well, I'm gonna preach you a sermon 'bout Old Man Atom, I don't mean the Adam in the Bible datum. I don't mean the Adam that Mother Eve mated, I mean that thing that science liberated. Einstein says he's scared, And when Einstein's scared, I'm scared. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini... Here's my moral, plain as day, Old Man Atom is here to stay. He's gonna hang around, it's plain to see, But, ah, my dearly beloved, are we? We hold these truths to be self-evident All men may be cremated equal. Hiroshima, Nagasaki -- here's my text Hiroshima, Nagasaki -- Lordy, who'll be next. The science guys, from every clime, They all pitched in with overtime. Before they knew it, the job was done; They'd hitched up the power of the gosh-darn sun, They put a harness on Old Sol, Splittin' atoms, while the diplomats was splittin' hairs . . . Hiroshima, Nagasaki -- what'll we do? Hiroshima, Nagasaki -- they both went up the blue. Then the cartel crowd put on a show To turn back the clock on the UNO, To get a corner on atoms and maybe extinguish Every darned atom that can't speak English. Down with foreign-born atoms! Yes, Sir! Hiroshima, Nagasaki... But the atom's international, in spite of hysteria, Flourishes in Utah, also Siberia. And whether you're white, black, red or brown, The question is this, when you boil it down: To be or not to be! That is the question. . . Atoms to atoms, and dust to dust, If the world makes A-bombs, something's bound to bust. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini... No, the answer to it all isn't military datum, Like "Who gets there fustest with the mostest atoms," But the people of the world must decide their fate, We got to stick together or disintegrate. World peace and the atomic golden age or a push-button war, Mass cooperation or mass annihilation, Civilian international control of the atom -- one world or none. If you're gonna split atoms, well, you can't split ranks. Hiroshima, Nagasaki... It's up to the people, cause the atom don't care, You can't fence him in, he's just like air. He doesn't give a darn about politics Or who got who into whatever fix -- All he wants to do is sit around and have his nucleus bombarded by neutrons. Hiroshima, Nagasaki... So if you're scared of the A-bomb, I'll tell you what to do: You got to get with all the people in the world with you. You got to get together and let out a yell, Or the first thing you know we'll blow this world to... Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Moscow, too, New York, London, Timbuktu, Shanghai, Paris, up the flue, Hiroshima, Nagasaki... We must choose between The brotherhood of man or smithereens. The people of the world must pick out a thesis: "Peace in the world, or the world in pieces!" -- By Vern Partlow