Song Lyric Sunday — Bluegrass

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Jim Adams has given us “bluegrass” songs. Jim explains that Bluegrass is a style of country music that arose in Appalachia in the 1940s and it is typically played on acoustic instruments. I’m not a fan of country music nor of bluegrass. But I loved the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I even posted about that movie here for last year’s A to Z Challenge. So this week I’m going to focus on a song that was featured in that movie, “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” Below is a scene from the movie that introduced the song:

This song was first published in 1913 by the blind folk singer Richard Burnett. It was popularized by the Stanley Brothers, who recorded the song in the 1950s. Many other artists have covered the song, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Ginger Baker’s Air Force with vocals by Denny Laine.

As I mentioned, the song was featured in the 2000 movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” which was based on the epic poem The Odyssey. The lyrics, “I am a man of constant sorrow / I’ve seen trouble all my days,” refers to Odysseus and all the troubles he had on his journey home. In the film, the song is sung by The Soggy Bottom Boys, a group made up for the movie with George Clooney as one of the members. The real voice was that of Dan Tyminski from the band Union Station, with backing vocals from Harley Allen and Pat Enright.

The version of the song recorded for the movie received a CMA Award for “Single of the Year” in 2001 and a Grammy for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” in 2002. The song was also named Song of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2001.

Here are the lyrics to “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrows.”

I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The state where I was borned and raised
(The state where he was borned and raised)

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I find
For in this world I'm bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now
(He has no friends to help him now)

It's fare thee well my old lover
I never expect to see you again
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)

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

Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you never will see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)

Here is the Stanley Brothers version: