I Know You Rider

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"I Know You Rider"
Published c. 1934
Form Country blues
Composer Traditional with additions by John Lomax and Alan Lomax
Language English

"I Know You Rider" (aka "Woman Blues" and "I Know My Rider") is a traditional blues song that has been adapted by numerous artists.

History of the song[edit]

Modern versions can be traced back to the song's appearance in the 1934 book, American Ballads and Folk Songs, by the noted father-and-son pair of musicologists and folklorists, John Lomax and Alan Lomax.[1] The book notes that "An eighteen-year old black girl, in prison for murder, sang the song and the first stanza of these blues." The Lomaxes then added a number of verses from other sources and named it "Woman Blue".[1]

The music and melody are similar to Lucille Bogan's "B.D. Woman Blues" (ca. 1935), although the lyrics are completely different.

In the mid-1950s, traditional musician Bob Coltman found the song in the Lomax book, arranged it and began singing it frequently around Philadelphia and New England circa 1957-1960.[1] In 1959, Coltman taught it to Tossi Aaron who recorded it in 1960 for her LP Tossi Sings Folk Songs & Ballads on Prestige International.[1][2] Joan Baez recorded a version for her 1960 debut album on Vanguard Records but the track was not released until 2001.[2] Throughout the early 1960s the song gained popularity through folk performers, most notably The Kingston Trio, who included the song "Rider" on their album Sunny Side! in 1963.[3] So did The Big 3, an American folk trio that featured Cass Elliot. Folk singer Judy Roderick also recorded an influential version of the song under the title "Woman Blue" and it became the title track of her second album, recorded and released by Vanguard in 1965.[1][4] British folk singer John Renbourn recorded a version of the song (titled "I Know My Babe") and it was included on his 1967 solo album, Another Monday.[5]

By the mid-1960s, rock began recording the song. Well-known versions include those by Janis Joplin, James Taylor (as "Circle Around the Sun", on James Taylor), the Seldom Scene and Hot Tuna.[1] The Byrds recorded the song during 1966, under the title "I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider)", but their version remained unreleased until 1987, when it was included on Never Before.[6] The Byrds' version was later included as a bonus track on the expanded CD edition of their Fifth Dimension album.[7] The Byrds also performed the song at the Monterey Pop Festival, though that performance of "I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider)" has never been officially released.[8]

"I Know You Rider" was also a staple of the Grateful Dead's live shows. It was the first song that bass player Phil Lesh rehearsed with the band upon joining. However, Lesh was not confident enough in his own singing abilities to handle the song's lead vocal. During the Grateful Dead's live concerts, it was usually performed as the second half of a medley with "China Cat Sunflower". This segue was later used by Bruce Hornsby and The Range, with "I Know You Rider" following their song, "The Red Plains".

The song has also been covered by New York based singer-songwriter Robin Greenstein on her traditional folk and blues CD, Images of Women Vol. 1 and by traditional American folksinger Steve Suffet (as a duet with Laura Munzer) on his 2008 Low Rent District album.[9][10] The song was also covered by reggae/rock fusion artists Slightly Stoopid on their 2008 album Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid.[11] It has also been partially covered by experimental folk band Akron/Family.

Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky recorded a version of the song for their 2015 Kickstarter-funded Pine Hill Project album Tomorrow You're Going.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "I Know You Rider". Grateful Dead Lyric & Song Finder. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  2. ^ a b "I Know You Rider". Community Guitar.com. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  3. ^ "Sunny Side! review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  4. ^ "Judy Roderick - Woman Blue review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  5. ^ "Another Monday review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  6. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 421. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  7. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1996). Fifth Dimension (1996 CD liner notes). 
  8. ^ Rogan (1998) p.218
  9. ^ "Robin Greenstein - Images of Women Vol. 1". robingreenstein.com. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  10. ^ "Steve Suffet: Low Rent District". CD Baby. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  11. ^ "Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 

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