The Wayfaring Stranger (song)

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"The Wayfaring Stranger" (aka "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" or "I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger"), Roud 3339, is a well-known American folk song likely originating in the early 19th century[1] about a plaintive soul on the journey through life. As with most folk songs, many variations of the lyrics exist.


I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
I'm traveling through this world of woe
Yet there's no sickness, toil nor danger
In that bright land to which I go
I'm going there to see my father
I'm going there no more to roam
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home

I know dark clouds will gather 'round me
I know my way is rough and steep
Yet golden fields lie just before me
Where the redeemed shall ever sleep
I'm going there to see my mother
She said she'd meet me when I come
I'm only going over Jordan
I'm only going over home

I want to wear a crown of glory
When I get home to that good land
I want to shout salvation's story
In concert with the blood-washed band

I'm going there to meet my Saviour
To sing his praise forever more
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home


It became one of Burl Ives's signature songs, included on his 1944 album The Wayfaring Stranger. Ives used it as the title of his early 1940s CBS radio show and his 1948 autobiography. He became known as "The Wayfaring Stranger".

The New Christy Minstrels recorded their song "The Ballad of Julie Ann" to this tune.

Johnny Cash recorded the song for American III: Solitary Man in 2000, credited as being traditional.

16 Horsepower, an American alternative country music group, recorded a version as part of their 2000 album Secret South.

British singer Jamie Woon recorded the song to his debut EP titled Wayfaring Stranger.

Emmylou Harris covered the song on her 1980 album Roses in the Snow. Harris' version peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.[2] It reached number 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.[3]

In 2010, the Norwegian progressive death metal band In Vain covered the song on their album "Mantra" as a hidden track on the end of the album, credited as being traditional. Despite being a progressive death metal band, the tracks style is more like the original country folk song, with just acoustic guitars and two voices.

In classical music[edit]

Ernő Dohnányi used the tune (along with two other traditional American folktunes) in his final composition American Rhapsody (1953). In addition, George Crumb used the tune with lyrics in Unto the Hills (2001), for soprano, piano, and percussion quartet.

Appearance in media[edit]

  • The song was used in the motion picture Cold Mountain, performed by Jack White.[4]
  • The song was also sung in the motion picture How The West Was Won from 1963[5]
  • The song was recorded by Michael Parks for the pilot movie of the series Then Came Bronson.
  • The first four lines were sung by P.V.C. as a taunt to police helicopter pilot Frank Chaney in the episode Second Thunder of Blue Thunder
  • The song was also featured on Eva Cassidy's album titled; Eva at Heart released on September 23, 1997 by(Blix Street Records),eleven months after her death. The song also appeared on her "Songbird" collection which rose to the top of the British charts in 1998.
  • The song was sung in the American series 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
  • The song was sung in the 2011 German motion picture Romeos.
  • Ed Sheeran covered this song on the One Take EP.
  • In the 2012 Belgian movie The Broken Circle Breakdown it is sung by Veerle Baetens. It also appears in the album of the original soundtrack of the film, "The Broken Circle Breakdown".
  • In the fifth season episode "The C-Word" of the show Childrens Hospital, during the USO show, Chief is singing a cover of this song.
  • Betsy Lee's animation "No Evil" did a small cover of the song for its episode "Wrip an' Vinkle"
  • This song is performed by Joan Baez and appears on the album David's Album (1969) and on the compilation box set Rare, Live & Classic (1993).
  • Chaley Rose performed this a capella on the second season of ABC's Nashville. (2013).

Chart success[edit]

Preceded by
"True Love Ways"
by Mickey Gilley
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single (Emmylou Harris version)

August 23, 1980
Succeeded by
"Love the World Away"
by Kenny Rogers

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Studer. Folk Songs of the Catskills. SUNY Press, 1982. 292-294. ISBN 0-87395-581-1
  2. ^ "Emmylou Harris - Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ "RPM Country Tracks for August 23, 1980". RPM. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Cold Mountain Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  5. ^ "How the west was won Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Greg Ryder". Retrieved June 30, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]