Keep Your Powder Dry
copyright 2008 by Tim Griffin

When America was settled by brave Englishmen of old
On New England’s shore we swore we’d never leave the British fold
But now New England’s soil has drunk our blood and sweat and tears
And England hasn’t been our home for years

Still, we gave the king our fealty as all good subjects should
While the monarch used his power to protect the common good
But the good of all the people’s now the last thing on his mind
And it’s time to leave old loyalties behind

So keep your powder dry and keep a weapon close to hand
Be ready any minute men, defend your life and land
The king’s become a tyrant so let’s give him his reward
For years we tried diplomacy– it’s time to try the sword.

In the days of Magna Carta all the English people saw
That even mighty kings would stand beneath one common law
The law’s our one protection from the cannon and the crown
But now the law’s been beaten to the ground

So it’s taxes on our playing cards and taxes on our tea
And half the British army’s moving in with you and me
We asked the king and Parliament to listen to our case
They only slammed their doors into our face

Keep your powder dry, it’s one by land or two by sea
Be ready day or night to fight for life and liberty
We demanded English rights for all our daughters and our sons
He wouldn’t listen to our words– he’ll listen to our guns.

Now a curse upon the loyalist who serves the royal pride
And a curse upon the fool who thinks to safely stand aside
In Concord and in Lexington the battle has begun
So tell me brother, which side are you on?

There comes a time in every age age when push will turn to shove
For men to stand and fight for rights endowed by God above
Patrick Henry said it best, you’ve one decision left
Your options now are liberty or death

So keep your powder dry, protect your children and your wives
For freedom’s sake, we pledge our sacred honor and our lives
You can ask the Brits for mercy, but no mercy will there be
There’s just two things they’ll offer you– a good rope and a tree

So keep your powder dry or you’ll be digging your own grave
With a tyrant for a king and every citizen a slave
Your prison cell is waiting now, your chain’s already forged
Better keep your powder dry– and save one bullet for King George. Bang!


I remember being a kid and watching those wonderful old Schoolhouse Rock videos on ABC television on Saturday mornings. This was before cable TV, let alone the internet! I loved those cartoons and I learned a lot from them-- they still inspire my own music-- but in hindsight they did tend to gloss over the unpleasant bits of our history, including just how angry everyone was in the 1770’s. As a teacher and a parent I believe kids can handle a more open discussion of how things went down, so I thought I’d write a song addressing the question of what it would take to get people to take up arms against their own government as we did back then.

Here are some California content standards addressed by this song:

Fifth Grade:

  • CA HSS 5.5: Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.
  • 5.5.1: Understand how political, religious, and economic ideas and interests brought about the Revolution (e.g., resistance to imperial policy, the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, taxes on tea, Coercive Acts).
  • 5.5.3: Understand the people and events associated with the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence and the document’s significance, including the key political concepts it embodies, the origins of those concepts, and its role in severing ties with Great Britain.
  • 5.5.4: Describe the views, lives, and impact of key individuals during this period (e.g., King George III, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams).

Eighth Grade:

  • CA HSS 8.1: Students understand the major events preceding the founding of the nation and relate their significance to the development of American constitutional democracy.
  • 8.2: Students analyze the political principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government.
  • 8.2.1: Discuss the significance of the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the Mayflower Compact.

Guitar Chords:
Dm, A, A7, D, Gm.