This is a popular children's song, but it originated as an American spiritual sung by black slaves and Irish immigrants, who supplied most of the labor to build the railroads in the United States.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
Trains are a common subject in folk music, so it was inevitable that musicians like Pete Seeger would perform this song. Many famous folk songs were written at a time when working class men and immigrants traveled on the rails in search of work. Many musicians rode the rails, performing to scattered audiences along the way. For more on the history of folk music and that lifestyle, check out our interview with Woody Guthrie's granddaughter.
The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize??" was named in March 2009 the official Rock Song of Oklahoma. Four years later, Oklahoma's governor Mary Fallin pulled the tune as the state's official rock song in a move her office said had more to do with priorities than musical taste.