Motherless Child Blues

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This article is about the blues song. For the Negro spiritual, see Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.

"Motherless Child Blues" (or, in dialect, "Motherless Chile Blues") is the name of two distinctly different traditional blues songs. They are different melodically and lyrically. One was first popularized by Robert "Barbecue Bob" Hicks—the other by Elvie Thomas.

"Motherless Child Blues" (Hicks)[edit]

The "Motherless Child Blues" recorded by Hicks in 1927 tells of the singer's lack of respect for, and disenchantment with, women in general. The song begins with the lyrics that give it its name:

If I mistreat you gal, I sure don't mean you no harm.
I'm a motherless child and I don't know right from wrong.[1]

This song has also been performed by octogenarian jazz legend Jimmy Scott and in a drum n' bass re-working by Scottish electronic artist Colin Waterson.

This song was later adapted by Eric Clapton on his album From the Cradle and retitled "Motherless Child".

A song with a similar title, "Motherless Children", (also covered by Clapton) is a blues standard popularised (inter alia) by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk and Lucinda Williams.

"Motherless Child Blues" (Thomas)[edit]

Elvie Thomas first recorded her "Motherless Child Blues" with Geeshie Wiley in 1930. This song tells of a daughter not following her dead mother's advice:

Mother told me just before she died,
Oh daughter, Oh daughter, please don't be like me,
To fall in love with every man you see.[2]


  1. ^ Evans, Ramblin' on My Mind, p. 134.
  2. ^ Sackheim, The Blues Line, p. 38.


  • Evans, David. Ramblin' on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues. University of Illinois Press, 2008. ISBN 0-252-07448-3
  • Sackheim, Eric. The Blues Line: Blues Lyrics from Leadbelly to Muddy Waters. Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 1-56025-567-6