Swing you sinners lyrics (Max Fleischer cartoon transcript)

This animated sequence of 1930 (!) is definitely my all-time favourite. The most disturbing, the most ingenious, the most vivid—it is a must-see.

However, due to the fact that everybody who was engaged in the production of this tiny treasure... well, their time had come before we could make out all the lyrics of the spooky version of the song. After an hour of web surfing, I came up with the complete version of the transcript. Sadly, I am by no means a native English speaker, so any feedback (in case you manage to decipher anything that was illegible or at least compose something very plausible, convincing and sound-alike) will be very welcome.

Slightly uncertain parts marked in blue. Heavily illegible parts marked in bold red. Recovered lines are marked in green (thank you active viewers!). Please find the complete “Swing you Sinners” lyrics below.

Swing you sinners title

The introduction is pretty standard:

You sinners, drop everything,
Let the harmony ring,
Up to Heaven and sing,
Swing you sinners!

Just wave your arms all about,
Let the Lord hear you shout.
Pour the music right out,
Swing you sinners!

Whenever there’s music,
The Devil kicks.
He don’t allow music
By the river Styx.

You’re wicked and you’re depraved,
And you’ve all misbehaved.
If you wanna be saved,
Swing you sinners!

Swing you Sinners tombstones
Then comes the overture to the mayhem.

Good night, this is your finish, brother.
You’re never going to get away.
“Oh no!”
“Oh yes!”
You’ll never rob another hen-house!
You’ve sinned, and now you must ordain.
“Oh no.”
“Oh yes.”

We’re going to pulverize you brother
(Ya needed it!)
And scatter all your bones away.

An intermission.
Swing you Sinners accusations

Chickens you used to steal—
I don’t steal no more!
Craps you used to shoot—
I don’t shoot no more!
Girls you used to chase—
I don’t chase no more.
Get ready, brother, your time has come!

Swing you Sinners dancing sack

Stand up you sinner,
We’ve got you at last.
You can’t get away, there’s no time to pray,
Your finish is going to be fast.

Brothers and sisters,
Come on get hot.
We’ll amputate your vo-do-de-o
And tie your bones in a knot.

sys05

— Brother, you sure are gonna get your face lifted!
— And a permanent shave!

sys06

— Where you want your body sent?
— Body? Huh! Ain’t gonna be no body!

sys07

You can’t make any excuse,
So you’ll quail in your boots
‘Till we’ve picked up the noose,
Swing you sinners!

For making chickens elope,
You’re at the end of your rope,
So just give up all hope,
Swing you sinners!

We’ll stretch you like a giraffe,
Maybe cut you in half,
Just to give us a laugh,
Swing you sinners!

I shall be grateful to anyone who will help me bring this whole beauty together.

Update 2014-04-04: Samuel St.Cyr suggested four restored lines. Merci beaucoup!

Update 2014-04-19: Simol Regan deciphered the most illegible line and fixed a whole quatrain. What a great deed!

Update 2014-05-03: Charles Anthony came up with a small refinement. Let’s thank him!

Update 2014-05-31: Jed Wentz carried out some experiments with slow playback and shed light on two lines. Today he is the one who deserves kudos.

Update 2018-02-18: Finally, owing to Tom Parkes and Jason Cullen, we have resolved the last ambiguity. Congratulations, you sinners!

About Andreï Kostyrka

Науколюб, грамматический нацист, антитеист. Пишу стихотворения, сочиняю музыку, верстаю книги, занимаюсь эконометрикой и настраиваю фортепиано.
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13 Responses to Swing you sinners lyrics (Max Fleischer cartoon transcript)

  1. Samuel St.Cyr says:

    The correct lines are:
    “We’ll PULVERIZE you Brother” (Not ‘Rise you brother’)
    “And SCATTER ALL your bones away” (Not ‘haul your bones away’)
    “STILL We’ve picked up the noose”
    “So just give up ALL hope”

  2. Simon Regan says:

    Thanks for this great little accompaniment to a fantastic old cartoon short. Further to Samuel St. Cyr’s comment I’m almost positive the red line in the third to last verse is ‘So you’ll quail in your boots’ or very similar. That would tend to suggest the first word of the next line is ‘Till’ not ‘Still’, and I would further suggest the first line of the verse should read ‘You can’t MAKE any excuse’ (i.e. the sinner cannot justify himself):

    You can’t make any excuse,
    So you’ll quail in your boots
    ‘Till we’ve picked up the noose
    Swing you sinners!

    Worth noting that the song is a take-off of ‘Sing You Sinners’ by W. Franke Harling and Sam Coslow, particularly as performed by Duke Ellington.

  3. I’ve watched this cartoon dozens of times, and found this while searching for a lyric sheet. You should put this up on IMDB!

    I might hear some lines a little differently, but I think “You’ll never learn to get away” is “You’re never going to get away” just as “We’ll pulverize you brother” is “We’re going to pulverize you, brother”

    One thing I’m sure of, is that he says “We’ll amputate your vo-do-de-oh”. This is just a nonsense jazz word but it’s understandable what he’s talking about.

    • Dear Charles,
      Thank you for your suggestion! I re-watched the cartoon for the 78th time and found that your corrections are very precise. Well, it seems strange to amputate one’s bottom, doesn’t it? The “vo-do-de-o” is commonly found in 1930s’ songs, so it is highly likely.
      As for the IMDB, the time hasn’t come yet. There still are some disputable fragments that should not go online until they are clarified! The eloping chickens from the penultimate quatrain are somewhat confusing. So let’s wait for extra feedback from the lovers of Fleischer’s cartoons! If we hit the jackpot, some descendant of those creators might have it taken down in its perfect form.

  4. Jed Wentz says:

    Thanks very much for this, it is very helpful. I believe that the first lines should read:

    Goodnight! This is your finish, brother,
    You’ll never learn to get away.

    The line that I cannot understand at all is:

    You can’t make any excuse
    ??????????????????????
    Till we fix up the noose.

    The suggestion ‘quail in your boots’ makes sense, but I cannot hear it when I listen to the soundtrack…it is very frustrating!

    PS I would say that the voo-doo-di-oo is the sexual organs. This cartoon is, after all, a protest against lynchings in America (see, for instance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_of_Thomas_Shipp_and_Abram_Smith )

  5. Jed Wentz says:

    I made a sound file of the clip and played it back in VLC in slow motion.

    ‘Till we’ve picked up the noose’ is, I believe, correct, not ‘fixed up’ as I had at first thought.

    I would also suggest

    Fo’ makin’ chickens elope
    You’re at the end of your rope

    Which would make sense

    Even slowed down I can’t make out the mystery line….

    • Dear Jed,
      Sorry for the late reply.
      I totally agree with the “finish, brother” instead of “visit from us”, and the line with chickens seems more correct than it had been before.
      I should be grateful if you, a native English speaker, explained the sense you say it makes. As the dictionary defines, “elope” stands for “slip away”, “run away”, “escape”. First, the dog did not make the chicken elope; it tried to steal it. Second, it would seem more logical if the structure “For making…” were followed by an action, like “you are brought to justice”, instead of some sort of state of mind, “you are at the end of your rope”. Is it syntactically correct to use such sequences?
      P.S. The versions I had published on DeviantArt as a comment and on YouTube as a comment are pretty obsolete, so this is the one that is renewed as soon as a reply arrives.
      P.P.S. I have made an .srt subtitle file that goes perfectly with VLC!

      • Brent Rossow says:

        The way I interpret “for making chickens elope” is along the lines of “for stealing chickens” — that is, for making them leave their coop (involuntarily though it may be). Hope this helps!

  6. Jason Cullen says:

    I think its set instead of sent.
    I think this because if you were murdered, you could be left in the trash if someone was evil enough!

  7. Tom Parkes says:

    I know this is ancient, but for completeness’ sake here’s a response to your last doubt:

    — Where you want your body (set/sent)?

    Although the way it’s said is very ambiguous, ‘set’ makes the most sense. It means ‘where would you like to be buried’.

  8. Artie Fisk says:

    I think it out to be, “Where you want your body sent?”

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