Down in the Valley (folk song)

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"Birmingham Jail" redirects here. For the open letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr., see Letter from Birmingham Jail.
"Down in the Valley"
("Birmingham Jail")
Written by Traditional
Language English
Form Ballad

"Down in the Valley", also known as "Birmingham Jail", is a traditional American folk song.[1][2][3] It has been recorded by many artists, and is included in the Songs of Expanding America recordings in the Burl Ives six-album set Historical America in Song.


Down in the valley, the valley so low
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
Hear the wind blow, dear, hear the wind blow;
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.
Roses love sunshine, violets love dew,
Angels in Heaven know I love you,
Know I love you, dear, know I love you,
Angels in Heaven know I love you.
If you don't love me, love whom you please,
Throw your arms round me, give my heart ease,
Give my heart ease, dear, give my heart ease,
Throw your arms round me, give my heart ease
Build me a castle, forty feet high;
So I can see her as she rides by,
As she rides by, dear, as she rides by,
So I can see her as she rides by.
Write me a letter, send it by mail;
Send it in care of the Birmingham jail,
Birmingham jail, dear, Birmingham jail,
Send it in care of the Birmingham jail.

It is a ballad played in the 3/4 time signature. Lyrics vary, as with most folk songs. For example, sometimes the line "Hang your head over, hear the wind blow" is replaced by "Late in the evening, hear the train blow".

The most notable change in lyrics and title is the Birmingham Jail rendition, recorded by Darby and Tarlton in 1927, and by Lead Belly in 1935.[4]

Pop culture[edit]

The song is the basis of the Kurt Weill and Arnold Sundgaard opera "Down in the Valley."

The song was performed on The Andy Griffith Show when Andy Griffith and actress Joanna Moore sang the song.

In the original Friday the 13th (1980) a group of camp councilors sing the song while the killer stalks.

Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1962 album The Chipmunk Songbook. They also sang it on an episode of The Alvin Show, in which the final line of the first verse was changed to "Hear that train blow."[5]

This is sung by Dorian Holley and mimed by Erland Van Lidth De Jeude in the 1980 comedy movie Stir Crazy starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in which they are sent to prison after being wrongfully convicted of a bank robbery.

The song was recorded by The Andrews Sisters.

In the episode "Grand Canyon or Bust" of The Brady Bunch, the family sung the song around a campfire.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Dark Page", an illusion of Deanna Troi's father sings the song in the form of a lullaby.

The 1982 film Safari 3000 features a scene where Eddie Miles (David Carradine) and J.J. Dalton (Stockard Channing) sing a verse of the song.

The author/songwriter David M Pierce used selected lyrics from the song as titles for a series of detective novels written between 1989 and 1996 - "Down In The Valley", "Hear The Wind Blow, Dear", "Roses Love Sunshine", "Angels In Heaven", "Write Me A Letter" and "As She Rides By".

The first four verses are featured in Catherine Marshall's novel, "Christy", before the prologue.

Otis Redding's song "Down In The Valley".


  1. ^ Ken and Janice Tate, Favorite Songs of the Good Old Days (p. 29). Berne, Indiana: DRG (Dynamic Resource Group), 2005. ISBN 1-59217-034-X.
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ MIDI file. "Down In The Valley". Popular Songs in American History. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Alvin Show, episode 25, musical segment 2. Original air date, Wednesday 7:30 PM Jan 01, 1961 on CBS.

External links[edit]


  • Boas, Frank (ed.). The Journal of American Folk-Lore Vol. XXX (July–September 1917) No. CXVII. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: American Folk-Lore Society.