Man Of Constant Sorrow

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

Played by Jerry Garcia with David Grisman in 1991, and much earlier with the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers and with David Nelson in the 1960s. More recently played by Robert Hunter in 2002 and by Phil Lesh & Friends in 2005.

These are the lyrics from the Garcia/Grisman "Pizza Tapes" recording:

I am a man of constant sorrow
I have seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The State where I was born and raised

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I've found
For in this world I'm bound to travel (note 1)
I have no friends to help me now

You may bury me in some deep valley (note 2)
For many years where I may lay
Then you may learn to love another
While I am sleeping in my grave

Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you'll never see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore
Notes
(1) in the 1960s, Garcia sang "... bound to ramble"
(2) in the 1960s, Garcia sang something like:
"Maybe you can find some other lover
For many years while I may lay
Maybe then you'll find to love him
While I am sleeping in my grave"
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     4/5 Feb 1993 Pizza Tapes Garcia/Grisman/Rice

Roots
(The following information is taken from the History In Song site.)
The earliest known appearance of this song is under the title "Farewell Song" in a 1913 songbook by Richard Burnett, a blind Kentucky-born musician. When he was asked in an interview whether he wrote, he said "No, I think I got the ballet [sic] from somebody -- I dunno. It may be my song... "

Burnett's lyrics are:
I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all of my days
I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky
The place where I was born and raised

Oh, six long year I've been blind, friends
My pleasures here on earth are done
In this world I have to ramble
For I have no parents to help me now

So fare you well my own true lover
I fear I never see you again
For I'm bound to ride the Northern railroad
Perhaps I'll die upon the train

Oh, you may bury me in some deep valley
For many year there I may lay
Oh, when you're dreaming while you're slumbering
While I am sleeping in the clay

Oh, fare you well to my native country
The place where I have loved so well
For I have all kinds of trouble
In this vain world no tongue can tell

Dear friends, although I may be a stranger
My face you may never see no more
But there's a promise that is given
Where we can meet on that beautiful shore
Cecil Sharp published the song in 1918 under the title "In Old Virginny". The best-known recording of the song from that period was Emry Arthur's in 1928, this time under the title "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow", which is what it has been known as since then. Sarah Ogan Gunning, who was herself originally from Kentucky, recorded it in 1936, changing the words to "I Am A Girl Of Constant Sorrow", and continued to perform it through to the 60s.

In modern times, the Stanley Brothers did much to popularise the song, and authorship is often credited to Carter Stanley. Their version includes the verse beginning "So fare you well my own true lover" that Jerry Garcia omits, but omits the verse beginning "Oh you may bury me in some deep valley."

Hank Williams Sr. recorded a version of the late 1940s:
I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all of my days
I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky
The place where I was born and raised

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasures here on earth I've found
for in this world I am bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now

It�s fare thee well my own true lover
I never expect to see you again
For I'm bound to ride that Northern railroad
Perhaps I'll die upon the train

you can bury me in some deep valley
For many year where I may lay
and you may learn to love another
While I am sleeping in the grave

Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
A face you'll never see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore
Many others have recorded it, including Bob Dylan on his first LP in 1962 - with rather different lyrics:
I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all my days
I'll say goodbye to Colorado
Where I was born and partly raised

Your mother says, I'm a stranger
My face you'll never see no more
But there's one promise, darling
I'll see you on God's golden shore

Through this open world I'm a-bound to ramble
Through ice and snow, sleet and rain
I'm a-bound to ride that mornin' railroad
Perhaps I'll die on that train

I'm goin' back to Colorado
Place that I started from
If I'd knowed how bad you treat me
Honey, I never would have come
Robert Hunter sang an a capella version in 2002 while waiting for equipment problems to be sorted out:
I am a man of constant sorrow
I have seen trouble all my days
I'm going back to old Kentucky
Where I was born and partly raised

All through this life, I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I've found
I'm bound to take the northern railway
Perhaps I'll die upon the train

For seven long years I've been in trouble, I've been in trouble
No friends I have to help me now
I'm bound to take the northern highway
Perhaps I'll die out in the rain

Oh I've been [?], I've been [?]
I've been [?] any more
But there's one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore
More recently, the song features in the film "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?"


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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