“Down in the Valley”


"Down in the valley, valley so low, Hang your head over, hear the wind blow." The singer tells of his deep, unrequited love for (his/her) sweetheart. (He) bids farewell: "If you don't love me, love whom you please." (He says to write to Birmingham Jail.)


"Birmingham Jail" (sometimes credited to E.V. Body) is considered by some a separate song, but it can hardly be distinguished from "Down in the Valley." The same can be said of Sandburg's and Belden's "Bird in a Cage" texts; it lacks the "Down in the Valley" stanza, but the other verses are common. - RBW

This song is often called "Birmingham Jail," particularly on early recordings; there is also, however, another song called "Birmingham Jail", which is part of the "Sweet Thing/Crawdad Hole" family, and no relation to this. - PJS

Same tune

  • Hang Your Head Over (Suck Your Big Toe) (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 110)
  • Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton, "Birmingham Jail - No. 2" (Columbia 15375-D, 1929; rec. 1928); "New Birmingham Jail" (Columbia 15629-D, 1930 -- note that two different takes were issued under this record number)

Cross references


  • [Tom] Darby & [Jimmie] Tarlton, "Birmingham Jail" (Columbia 15212-D, 1927)
  • Ezra Hill & Henry Johnson, "Birmingham Jail" (Challenge 15750, 1929)
  • Frank Proffitt, "Down in the Valley" (on Proffitt03)
  • Riley Puckett, "Down in the Valley" (Regal Zonophone [Australia] G22464, n.d.)
  • Pete Seeger, "Down in the Valley" (on LonesomeValley) (on PeteSeeger17)
  • Unidentified group of singers, "Down in the Valley" (on JThomas01)


  1. Belden, p. 488, "Down in the Valley"; pp. 488-489, "Bird in a Cage" (2 texts)
  2. Randolph 772, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BrownIII 281, "Down in the Valley (Birmingham Jail)" (1 text plus a fragment); also probably 282, "I Sent My Love a Letter" (3 texts, of which "A" is likely to be this piece and "C" is a mess with some "Down in the Valley" verses and others about Lulu, though it's not clear which Lulu; "B" is "Green Grows the Laurel (Green Grow the Lilacs)")
  4. Fuson, p. 142, "Bird in the Cage" (1 text)
  5. MHenry-Appalachians, p. 179, "Down in the Valley" (1 text)
  6. Sandburg, p. 148, "Down in the Valley"; 213, "Bird in a Cage" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  7. Lomax-FSUSA 19, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 147-149, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Lomax-FSNA 150, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Fife-Cowboy/West 58, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 902-903, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. PSeeger-AFB, p. 33, "Down In The Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 290, "Down in the Valley" (1 text)
  14. Silber-FSWB, p. 150, "Down In The Valley" (1 text)
  15. Fuld-WFM, pp. 201-202, "Down in the Valley"
  17. ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 212, (no title) (1 fragment)
  18. Roud #943
  19. BI, R772


Alternate titles: “Birmingham Jail”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1909 (Belden)
Found in: US(Ap,MW,SE,So)