Growling Tiger aka Neville MarcanoMoney is King, by Neville Marcano (a.k.a. Growling Tiger)

Introduced by Deborah Robins

Particularly now, this calypso song, which was widely performed in the 1950s, is, sadly, still relevant: the story of how the underclass is invisible while those with wealth can “commit murder, get off free, live in the Governor’s company...”. I first heard this song performed on an album by the very young and wonderful Bob Gibson, a regular at my parents’ favorite local Chicago club, The Gate of Horn, and, later, by the composer, Trinidadian “Growling Tiger.” According to Gibson, who was a friend and colleague of mine, his travels to the West Indies in the 1950s gleaned many songs which he transported to the states, “Money is King” among them. The original lyrics differ from those recorded by Gibson in 1956, with Gibson opting to replace island jargon. Alan Lomax recorded Marcano singing his signature song in 1962. See below for the original lyrics and two performances by Growling Tiger, and then below that for Gibson’s lyrics and performance.

Money is King (original lyrics)

If a man has money today

People do not care if he has cacobe [yaws, a tropical disease]

If a man has money today

People do not care if he has cacobe

He can commit murder and get off free

Live in the governor’s company

But if you are poor, people tell you “shoo”

And even dog is better than you

A man with money walks into a store

The boss will shake his hand at the door

Call ten clerks to write down everything

Suits, hats, whiskey, even diamond rings

Take them to your home on a motorbike

You can pay the bills whenever you like

And not a soul will ask you a thing

They know very well that money is king

A dog can walk about and take up bone

Foul head, stale bread, fish-tail and pone

If it’s a good breed and not too wild

Someone will take it and mind as a child

But when a hungry man goes out to beg

They will set a bulldog behind his leg

Twenty policemen will arrest him too

So you see when a dog is better than you

A man with collar and tie and waistcoat

Ask the chinaman to trust him acra and float

“Me no trus’am,” bawl out the chinaman
You better get away from the frying pan”
“Me no college man, me no know ABC”

“You want acra, gi’am penny”

And the worms start to jump in the man’s belly

And he cries out, “A dog is better than me”

If a man have money and things going nice

Any woman will call him honey and spice

But if he can’t buy a dress or a new pair of shoes

She will say she’s got no uses for you

If you try to caress her, she will tell you “stop!”

“I can’t carry love in the grocery shop”

So most of you will agree it’s true

If you haven’t money, dog is better than you

A very rough live recording by the composer

A studio recording by the composer:

Bob Gibson’s version, link to his lyrics

A much “cleaned up” recording by Bob Gibson:

Deborah Robins is an American Songster and presenter of old songs. She performs, records, and tours with husband and musical partner, the venerated Larry Hanks. She released her first solo CD, “Lone Journey,” in 2016, and is at work on a second. Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins will be on staff at the upcoming TradMaD, in August; they tour US, UK, and Canada.

Back to Top