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As "Farewell Song" printed in a Richard Burnett songbook, c. 1913. An early version was recorded by Emry Arthur in 1928 (Vocalion Vo 5208).
In recent years, the Appalachian lament "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" has become popular in urban folksong circles, in part through the performance of the Stanley Brothers and of Mike Seeger.
No study of this haunting piece is available; the earliest text I have found was printed about 1913 in a pocket songster hawked by Dick Burnett, a blind singer from Monticello, Kentucky.
During 1918, Cecil Sharp collected the song and published it as "In Old Virginny" (Sharp II, 233). Sarah [Ogan Gunning]'s recomposition of the traditional "Man" into a more personal "Girl" took place about 1936 in New York, where her first husband, Andrew Ogan, was fatally ill. The text was descriptive of loneliness away from home and anticipated her bereavement; the melody she remembered from a 78 rpm hillbilly record (Emry Arthur) [probably Vocalion Vo 5208, 1928] she had heard some years before in the mountains.
Archie Green, liner notes for "Sarah Ogan Gunning -- A Girl of Constant Sorrow", Folk Legacy (1965)/Topic (GB) (1967).
Minor (mostly discographical) additions (in square brackets) by Manfred Helfert.
Performed and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1961-'62; released on "Bob Dylan," 1962.
Lyrics as recorded by THE STANLEY BROTHERS, Newport Folk Festival, 1959.
CARTER STANLEY, guitar/vocals; RALPH STANLEY, banjo/vocals; CHUBBY ANTHONY, fiddle; LINDY "TENNESSEE MORT" CLEAR, bass;
transcribed by Manfred Helfert
Gettin' back to some folk songs,
Here's one you might remember, neighbors...
Some of you... It's called "A Man Of Constant Sorrow."
In constant sorrow all my days...
I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all of my days.
I bid farewell to old Kentucky,
The state where I was born and raised.
The state where he was born and raised...
Oh, six long years I've been in trouble,
No pleasure here on earth I found.
While in this world, I'm bound to ramble,
I have no friends to help me out.
He has no friends to help him out...
It's fare you 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 this train.
For he may die upon this train...
Maybe your friends say I'm just a stranger,
My face you never will see no more.
But there's one promise that is given,
I'll meet you on God's golden shore.
He'll meet you on God's golden shore...
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.