17 January 2020

'Man of constant sorrow' to Grammy Hall of Fame (Update)

The 1951 Columbia recording by the Stanley Brothers of 'I'm a man of constant sorrow' has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Richard Thompson has a very informative feature on Bluegrass Today about the induction, with a historical note on the song and its origins. The recording can be heard on the Bluegrass Today article and also on YouTube.

This was the Stanleys' first recording of the song, which they first heard sung by their father. They recorded the song again in 1959 with an added vocal refrain, and this version is now widely known through being sung by the 'Soggy Bottom Boys' in the film O brother where art thou?

BIB editor's note: I'm still attached to the somewhat different version of the tune as sung by the New Lost City Ramblers (which I probably first heard sung live by Terry and Gay Woods in Dublin). This is based on the 1928 recording by Emry Arthur. A striking and uncommon instrumental version can be heard on a home recording by the legendary West Virginia fiddler Ed Haley.

PS: In what appears to be a coincidence, the Stanley Brothers have now also been commemorated in a special edition of a bourbon whiskey. See John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

Update 21 Jan.: Other inductions to the Grammy Hall of Fame this year include 'I'll fly away' by the Chuck Wagon Gang, from their 2019 album No depression In heaven: the gospel songs of the Carter Family. The 1948 recording of this song by the original Chuck Wagon Gang, well worth listening to, can be heard here. Thanks to the Mountain Home Music Company for the news.

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