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Dust to Dust

[John Kirkpatrick]

Martin Carthy sang John Kirkpatrick's song unaccompanied on his 1971 album Landfall. This recording was included in 2001 on the anthology The Carthy Chronicles. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

The three modern songs here, His Name Is Andrew, The January Man, and Dust to Dust, were written by David Ackles, Dave Goulder and John Kirkpatrick. David Ackles is an American who writes songs sounding very like the French chansonniers. Dave Goulder runs a sort of doss-house-cum-mountain rescue service up in Ross-Shire, when he's not writing songs and poetry or singing in clubs. John Kirkpatrick used to (and, I think, still does) play piano accordion for the Hammersmith Morris Men, as well as doing solo folk club gigs singing.

Roy Bailey recorded Dust to Dust in the same year for his album Roy Bailey. Both Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick played on this album too but not on this track. John Kirkpatrick's own recordings can be found on his albums Jump at the Sun (1972) and Mazurka Berserker (2001).

Jon Boden sang Dust to Dust as the April 21, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

Probably the only song in the revival repertoire written in the Locrian mode. Amazingly it doesn’t sound that strange and lyrically it’s a tour de force by Kirkpatrick senior.

Andy Turner learned Dust to Dust from Martin Carthy's album and sang it as the July 17, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.


Digging graves is my delight,
Digging graves for you to lie in.
Digging graves from morn' till night,
I makes me living from the dying.
Digging graves the whole day long,
And as I dig I sing this song
To anybody that comes along,
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,
And so begins my song.

Rich and poor all come the same,
I bury you all there's none as favour.
Don't spend your life in seeking gain;
No gold from death will ever save you.
Mighty men with wealth and riches,
Beggars too in rags and stitches;
All end up in the wooden britches.
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,
And so my song goes on.

Some we bury with foul diseases,
Some will die still young and pretty.
Death will take just who it pleases,
For in death there is no pity.
Mangled men with sightless eyes,
Babes in arms and maids like wives,
Fit or foolish, weak or wise.
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,
And so I sing my song.

You might be dancing in the street,
You might be gay, you might be grieving.
You might be singing a song so sweet
But you'll not cheat death, there's no deceiving.
In the street or in the hall,
Whether you skip or whether you crawl,
Death could come any time at all.
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,
And so my song goes on.

Death come early, death come late,
It takes us all, there is no reason.
For every purpose under heaven,
To each a turn, to each a season.
A time to weep and a time to sigh,
A time to laugh and a time to cry,
A time to be born and a time to die.
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,
And so I end my song.


Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke. Thanks to Paul Harrowing for correcting some embarrassing errors.