“Man of Constant Sorrow”


"I am a man of constant sorrow, I have been troubled all my days, I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky, The place where I was born and raised." Singer describes his hard, rambling life, and bids farewell to his lover, country, and friends.


The words of this song have the curious characteristic of sounding like floating verses, even though they are not. - PJS

Although Emry Arthur claims to have composed this piece, a significantly different version was found in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1957. One suspects that, when Arthur claimed authorship, he meant (as many other old-time singers meant) that he put it in shape for collection.

In later years, Richard Burnett was asked about the song. He himself could not remember, at that time, if he had composed it, or copied it, or -- perhaps most likely -- adapted it from something traditional. - RBW

Same tune

  • Girl of Constant Sorrow (File: FSWB128B)

Cross references


  • Emry Arthur, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (Paramount 3289, 1931; on ConstSor1); "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow" (Vocalion 5208, c. 1927)
  • Roscoe Holcomb, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (on Holcomb-Ward1)
  • Frank Proffitt, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (on FProffitt01)
  • The Stanley Brothers, "I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow" (Columbia 20816, 1951)


  1. SharpAp 167, "In Old Virginny" (4 texts, 4 tunes, with the "C" text being this song; "A" and "B" are "East Virginia (Dark Hollow)" and D is a collection of floaters)
  2. Shellans, pp. 26-27, "Constant Sorrow" (1 text, 1 tune, beginning with "Man of Constant Sorrow" but with most of "Fair and Tender Ladies" grafted on at the end)
  3. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 113, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Darling-NAS, p. 260, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (1 text)
  5. Silber-FSWB, p. 57, "Man of Constant Sorrow" (1 text)
  7. Roud #499
  8. BI, CSW113


Alternate titles: “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”; “Farewell Song”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1913 (Richard Burnett's songbook)
Found in: US(Ap,SE)