Goodnight Irene

Lyrics: Ledbetter
Music: Ledbetter

Played only once by the Grateful Dead, on 31 Dec 1983 (though rehearsed in the studio on 27 September 1990, subsequently broadcast on the 2008 KPFA GD Marathon). Played more frequently by Jerry Garcia with John Kahn and with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band.

This is the version with the Grateful Dead in 1983:

Chorus
Goodnight Irene, goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I take a few notions
I want to jump overboard in a river and drown

[chorus]

One night I got married
Now me and my wife settled down
Now me and my wife are parting
I want to jump overboard in a river and drown

[chorus]
[chorus]
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams
The version with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band included an extra verse:
Saturday night, I got married
Me and my wife settled down
Now me and my wife are parting
Going to take another walk downtown

Chorus
Irene, goodnight
Goodnight, Irene, goodnight
Goodnight, Irene
Goodnight, Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live right here in town
Sometimes I get a fool notion
I'm gonna jump off in the river and drown

[chorus]

[Stop] rambling, stop your gambling
Stop staying out late every night
Stay home with your wife and children
Stay by the fireside light

[chorus]

Goodnight, Irene
Goodnight, Irene
I'll see you in my dreams
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     28 Feb 1986 Pure Jerry: Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium Jerry Garcia/John Kahn
     31 Oct 1987 Pure Jerry: Lunt-Fontanne Jerry Garcia Band (note 1)

Notes
(1) also released on Ragged But Right


Roots
The song is often credited to Leadbelly, but he apparently learnt it from his uncle Tyrell Leadbetter. It seems to have been written by Gussie L Davis in the late 19th century.

Leadbelly seems to have recorded several versions. This is one of the longer ones:
Chorus
Irene, goodnight
Irene, goodnight
Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene
I get you in my dreams

I asked your mother for you
She told me that you was too young
I wish the lord that I'd never seen your face
I'm sorry you ever was born

[chorus]

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I have a great notion
Jumping in, into the river and drown

[chorus]

Stop ramblin', and stop gamblin'
Quit stayin' out late at night
Go home to your wife and your family
And sit down out by the fireside bright

[chorus]

I love Irene, God knows I do
Love her until the sea run dry
If Irene turns her back on me
I'm gonna take a morphine and die

[chorus]

You caused me to weep, you caused me to moan
You caused me to leave my home
Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene
I get you in my dreams
The Weavers' sang a well-known version that has one of the verses Jerry sang:
The very last words that I heard her say
Was "please sing me one more song"

Chorus
Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

Last saturday night, I got married
Me and my wife settled down
Now me and my wife are parted
I'm gonna take another stroll downtown

[chorus]

Stop rambling, stop your rambling
Stop staying out late at night
Go home to your wife and family
Stay there by your fireside bright

[chorus]

I love Irene God knows I do
Love her till the seas run dry
And if Irene turns her back on me
I'll take morphine and die

[chorus]

Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For sheet music, see:
          Jerry Garcia Songbook (vocal line and chords)

 


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