Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

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Louis Armstrong recorded his own cover of this song[citation needed]

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is an African-American spiritual song that originated during the period of slavery but was not published until 1867. The song is well known and many cover versions of it have been done by artists such as Marian Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Harry James, Paul Robeson, Sam Cooke among others.[1] Anderson had her first successful recording with a version of this song on the Victor label in 1925.[2] Horne recorded a version of the song in 1946.[3] Deep River Boys recorded their version in Oslo on August 29, 1958. It was released on the extended play Negro Spirituals Vol. 1 (HMV 7EGN 27). The song was arranged by Harry Douglas.

It is one of the five spirituals included in the oratorio A Child of Our Time, first performed in 1944, by the classical composer Michael Tippett (1905–98).

Traditional lyrics[edit]

Nobody knows the trouble I've been through
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory hallelujah!
Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down
Oh, yes, Lord
Sometimes I'm almost to the ground
Oh, yes, Lord
Although you see me going 'long so
Oh, yes, Lord
I have my trials here below
Oh, yes, Lord
If you get there before I do
Oh, yes, Lord
Tell all-a my friends I'm coming to Heaven!
Oh, yes, Lord


  • The song appeared as "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had" in 1867 in Slave Songs of the United States with additional verses.[4][5]
  • The Jubilee Singers sang a song with a similar chorus and with different tune and lyrics, entitled "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See," first published in 1872.
  • The second line ("Nobody knows my sorrow") or fourth line is changed in some renditions to be "Nobody knows but Jesus".
  • The song appears in the disc of the year 1973 "Mocedades 5" of the Spanish group Mocedades.

Classic variations[edit]

On the late 19th century African-American music began to appear in classical music art forms, in arrangements made by black composers such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Henry Thacker Burleigh and J. Rosamond Johnson. Johnson made an arrangement of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" for voice and piano in 1917, when he was directing the New York Music School Settlement for Colored People.[6]

American violinist Maud Powell was the first white solo concert artist to perform classical arrangements of spirituals in concerts, and that is where she also interpreted classical and contemporary pieces by composers like Dvorak and Sibelius. After Powell's suggestion, J. R. Johnson made an arrangement of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" for piano and violin in 1919. Powell got to play this in a fall program she organized, and then she died that November.[6] Recent interpretations of the classical version of this spiritual have been made by a Chicago violinist, Rachel Barton Pine, who has been working along the lines of Powell's legacy.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

A black American soldier during the second episode of Roberto Rossellini's Paisan sings this song to a little Italian boy.

Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).

The song is sung in episode 1 of the Doctor Who serial The Evil of the Daleks when the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon are in a coffee bar.

A line of the song is used in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Dee Dee Be Deep".

Part of the song was sung by Princess Vespa in the cult movie Spaceballs.

A line of the song is also sung by Geoff Ramsey in the third season of the popular video game web-series, Red vs. Blue.

It is also sung by Ryan Haywood in Let's Play Minecraft - Episode 259 Dark Monopoly Finale which also stars Geoff Ramsey.

The song was sung in the Recess episode "The Voice". Actor and singer Robert Goulet sings it as Mikey.

In the Bonanza episode "The Smiler", a portion is sung by Herschel Bernardi (Jud), and Hy Terman (Arthur Bolling).

The song is played on a theremin by Sheldon Cooper in the TV show The Big Bang Theory

Balki Bartokomous sings a line from the song in Season 2 Episode 5 of Perfect Strangers.

Part of the song was sung in the first verse of "Monument" by A Day To Remember.

In the film Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987), Lt Proctor sings this song in prison while running a metal cup along the bars.

The line "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is used to end the second verse of "You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison" by My Chemical Romance.

In The Lion King, Zazu briefly sings the song to Scar while under captivity.

In children's adventure game Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell, Luther's Uncle Blemmy sings two bars of the song woefully while unlawfully imprisoned.

In Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch, Luther sings one bar of the song when Freddi and Luther are locked up in a jail.

The song can be heard on a radio in Silent Hill: Downpour.

A quote from the song is used as the opening quote of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" (Episode 63) of the TV show Grimm.

In his Jazz album of 1978, Ry Cooder added the couplet "Nobody knows the trouble I see, Nobody knows but me" based on the song, as an opening to his version of Nobody, originally composed and sung by Bert Williams.

Line 1 & 2 was sung in the show called Tyler Perry's House of Payne in Volume 9.

In the Wee Sing video "Wee Sing in the Big Rock Candy Mountains", the song is sung by Little Bunny Foo Foo to express his sorrow after he is turned into a goon by the Good Fairy for repeatedly bopping the Meecy Mice.

In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air season 1, the main character Will Smith plays it on the piano.

In Episode 16 "Subway, Somehow" of the sitcom "The New Adventures Of Old Christine", it is sung by Julia Louis-Dreyfus while she is stuck in a subway station.

In Episode 10 "Shopping" of season 1 of The Goldbergs, it is sung by Bevery Goldberg locked up in a mall jail.

In the episode of The Muppet Show featuring John Denver, Denver responds to some mushroom shaped Muppets by singing "Nobody knows the truffles I've seen!"


  1. ^ Paul Robeson Collection
  2. ^ Joel Whitburn, Pop Memories 1890-1954 (1986), Record Research Inc.
  3. ^ Black and White Records
  4. ^ Slave Songs of the United States
  5. ^ Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had
  6. ^ a b Shaffer, Karen. "American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell". Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Barton Pine, Rachel. "Nobody Knows the Trouble I see". 

External links[edit]