Song: “Johnny Appleseed”

In my search for music that connected with American folk stories, I found a 2001 song written and recorded by Joe Strummer called “Johnny Appleseed.” The song was recorded by Sony Music and released by Universal on the album Global a Go-Go. It is a pretty catchy song that uses a guitar riff and keyboard as its main instruments to set the melody. Then, Strummer comes in with an acoustic guitar, which makes it feel much more authentic as a folk song because it is reminiscent of earlier blue grass music that often-used themes associated with folk tales. The lyrics are as follows:

Lord, there goes Johnny Appleseed/

He might pass by in the hour of need/

There’s a lot of souls/

Ain’t drinking from the well locked in a factory.



Hey, look there goes/

Hey, look there goes/

If you’re after getting the honey, hey/

Then you don’t go killing all the bees.


Lord, there goes Martin Luther King/

Notice how the door closes when the chimes of freedom ring/

I hear what you’re saying, I hear what he’s saying/

Is what was true now no longer so.




What the people are saying/

And we know every road, go, go/

What the people are saying/

There ain’t no berries on the trees/

Let the summertime sun/

(Fall on the apple) Fall on the apple.


Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine/

Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line/

We think there is a soul, we don’t know/

That soul is hard to find.




Hey, it’s what the people are saying/

It’s what the people are saying/

Hey, there ain’t no berries on the trees/

Hey, that’s what the people are saying, no berries on the trees/

You’re checking out the honey, baby/

You had to go killin’ all the bees.


Johnny Appleseed is only mentioned in the first stanza of the song, but it aims to set a foundation for discussing other major figures that are associated with kindness and giving, like Martin Luther King. Overall, the song clearly uses the Johnny Appleseed reference as a way to comment against global warming and the polluting the environment. Appleseed is a figure who brought apple seeds to the Northeast, therefore helping provide a source of food and livelihood to poor farmers. He represents an agricultural entrepreneurship that was more in-tune and respectful of nature. Strummer contrasts this myth with the modern state of American society and its destructive forces on nature, like “killing all the bees.” It exposes how American society has changed for the worse and is polluting the natural environment that once served as a source of national pride.

Source: Strummer, Joe, “Johnny Appleseed.” Global a Go-Go. Sony Music. 2001.