Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

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"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" is a song written circa 1878 by James A. Bland (1854–1911), an African-American composer and minstrel performer.[1] It was Virginia's state song from 1940 until 1997.[2]

There is some evidence suggesting that it is an adaptation of "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny" which had been popular since the 1840s and was sung by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.[1]

As Virginia's state song[edit]

Carry Me Back to Old Virginia

Regional anthem of  Virginia
Relinquished28 January 1997
Succeeded byOur Great Virginia

A third reworded version was Virginia's state song from 1940 until 1997,[2] using the word "Virginia" instead of "Virginny." In 1997, it was retired as the state song, largely due to controversy over the lyrics' racial content. On January 28, 1997, the Virginia Senate voted to designate "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" as state song emeritus and a study committee initiated a contest for writing a new state song.

The song was representative of the commonwealth in many ways. "When Clifton A. Woodrum was in Congress, the House of Representatives couldn't adjourn until the honorable Democrat from Roanoke, Virginia with a rich and varied baritone voice led the body in a rendition of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny".[3]

In January 2006, a state Senate panel voted to designate "Shenandoah" as the "interim official state song." On March 1, 2006, the House Rules Committee of the General Assembly voted down bill SB682, which would have made "Shenandoah" the official state song.


Other languages[edit]

  • The melody is a popular tune in Iceland, the lyrics by Páll Ólafsson are an ode to the plover as a sign of the arrival of spring.[8][9]
  • In Sweden, the melody is set to Christian lyrics with the title "Striden på jorden evig ej skall vara". Bo Andersson and Per-Göran Ekeroos, duet, with ensemble recorded it on 1966.

Lyrics (Bland's 1878 version)[edit]

Carry me back to old Virginny.
There's where the cotton and corn and taters grow.
There's where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
There's where this old darkey's heart am long'd to go.

There's where I labored so hard for old Massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn;
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.

Carry me back to old Virginny.
There's where the cotton and the corn and taters grow;
There's where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
There's where this old darkey's heart am long'd to go.

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There let me live till I wither and decay.
Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
There's where this old darkey's life will pass away.

Massa and Missis have long gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore.
There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more.


Lyrics (Edward Christy's original)[edit]

On de floating scow ob ole Virginny,
I've worked from day to day,
Raking among de oyster beds,
To me it was but play;
But now I'm old and feeble,
An' my bones are getting sore,
Den carry me back to ole Virginny
To ole Virginny shore.

Den carry me back to ole Virginny
To ole Virginny shore,
Oh, carry me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.

Oh, I wish dat I was young again,
Den I'd lead a different life,
I'd save my money and buy a farm,
And take Dinah for my wife;
But now old age, he holds me tight,
And I cannot love any more,
Oh, carry me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.

When I am dead and gone to roost,
Lay de old tambo by my side,
Let de possum and coon to my funeral go,
For dey are my only pride;
Den in soft repose, I'll take my sleep,
An' I'll dream for ever more,
Dat you're carrying me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.[11]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Carry Me Back (2012)[edit]

Americana string band Old Crow Medicine Show's 2012 album, Carry Me Back, derives its name from 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginny'. The song with "such a pleasurable melody and such discomfiting politics that it has fascinated bandleader Ketch Secor since he was a kid in Virginia" led him to write "Carry Me Back to Virginia," for the group's album.[12] As Secor reveals:

That song came from a story I was told as a kid. The Confederates ran out of men, so they got 16-year-old boys from VMI, just kids, to march up to New Market, Virginia. I imagine their pride and valor as they marched up that hill and their shock as they heard the screams of the horses in the smoke. I wanted to surprise the listener the same way, so I started off by extolling the virtue of war, then drawing off all that glory till the truth was revealed.[12]


  1. ^ a b Don Tyler (21 March 2016). Music of the First World War. ABC-CLIO. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-4408-3997-9.
  2. ^ a b "Attempt to Make Bluegrass Tune New Virginia State Song Fails". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  3. ^ Chittum, Matt. 2018. "Career in the Key of Roanoke". Roanoke Times. Discover History & Heritage. February 2018. Page 100.
  4. ^ "The Louis Armstrong Discography". Archived from the original on 2013-11-07. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  5. ^ Frankie Laine, "Mule Train/Carry Me Back To Old Virginney" Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  6. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, Up Through the Years, 1958-1963 Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  7. ^ Ray Charles, The Genius Hits the Road Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  8. ^ "Lóan er komin". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  9. ^ "Lóan er komin". Icelandic University Library registry (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  10. ^ "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia". Virginia United Daughters of the Confederacy. Archived from the original on 2017-06-02. Retrieved 2017-05-11.
  11. ^ "Image 2 of Carry me back to old Virginia". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved Dec 7, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Troubling Traditions Archived August 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine" by Geoffrey Himes; Issue 52 Paste Magazine 2012.

External links[edit]