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 song recorded by Hicks in 1927 tells of the singer's lack of respect for women and disenchantment with them. 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 been performed by the octogenarian jazz legend Jimmy Scott and in a drum-and-bass reworking by the Scottish electronic artist Colin Waterson.

Eric Clapton adapted the song, retitled "Motherless Child", and recorded it for his album From the Cradle.

A song with a similar title, "Motherless Children" (also covered by Clapton), is a blues standard, versions of which have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk and Lucinda Williams.

"Motherless Child Blues" (Thomas)[edit]

The song recorded by Elvie Thomas with Geeshie Wiley in 1930 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, David (2008). Ramblin' on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues. University of Illinois Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-252-07448-3.
  2. ^ Sackheim, Eric (2003). The Blues Line: Blues Lyrics from Leadbelly to Muddy Waters. Da Capo Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-56025-567-6.