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:

O is for Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was a 2000 crime comedy-drama musical film written, produced, co-edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It starred George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson, with Chris Thomas King, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning in supporting roles.

I didn’t think I was going to like this movie, but oh brother, was I wrong. It was a hoot. The film was loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey.” It deals with the twisted adventures of Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) and his “companions” Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Turturro) in 1930s Mississipi.

McGill scams his way off of a hard-labor chain gang, and still shackled to his own chain-mates from the chain gang, he, Delmar, and Pete set out to pursue freedom and the promise of a fortune in buried treasure. With nothing to lose, their hasty run takes them on an incredible journey of awesome experiences and colorful characters in this hilarious, offbeat road picture. It’s an odyssey filled with chases, close calls, near misses, and betrayal that left me laughing out loud at every outrageous twist and turn.

The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

Music plays a key role in the film when the trio of convicts record a bluegrass song called “Man of Constant Sorrow” that becomes a hit. In the film and on the soundtrack, they’re billed as the Soggy Bottom Boys. The voices were actually those of Alison Krauss and Union Station member Dan Tyminski, Nashville Bluegrass Band member Pat Enright, and Music City songwriter Harley Allen.

The song was a hit in the real world, too. “Man of Constant Sorrow” charted in the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and earned three major awards: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals at the Grammys, Song of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, and Single of the Year at the CMA Awards.

I’d love to share more with you about this hugely entertaining movie, but I’m afraid I’d be spoiling it for you should you ever choose to watch it, which I seriously recommend that you do.

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