The Wayfaring Stranger (song)

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"The Wayfaring Stranger" (a.k.a. "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" or "I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger"), Roud 3339, is a well-known American folk and gospel 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.

Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[2]


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

I know dark clouds will gather o'er me
I know my way is rough and steep
But golden fields lie just before me
Where the redeemed shall ever sleep
I'm going home 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 know dark clouds will gather 'round me
I know my way is rough and steep
Yet beauteous fields lie out before me
Where God's redeemed, their vigils keep
I'm going there to see my mother
She said she'd meet me when I come
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home
I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
I'm just a-going over home


  • Bass player Charlie Haden recorded the song for his 1999 album The Art of Song. It features Shirley Horn on vocals.
  • In 2006, Lisbeth Scott recorded her version for her album Rough and Steep.
  • It became one of Burl Ives' 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"[citation needed].
  • Joan Baez included the song on her 1969 album David's Album.
  • Glen Campbell recorded this song in 1972 on his albumThe Artistry of Glen Campbell
  • American singer-songwriter Eva Cassidy covers "Wayfaring Stranger" in her 1998 album Songbird.
  • 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.
  • Papa M included the song, under the alternative title of "Over Jordan", on his 2001 album Whatever, Mortal.
  • Giant Sand, covered this song on their 2001 album Cover Magazine. The song slightly evolves on a cover of Fly Me to the Moon
  • 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.[3] It reached number 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.[4]
  • The American hip-hop band Spearhead included a modern overhaul of the song on their 1997 album Chocolate Supa Highway.
  • 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.
  • British folk legends Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson included a version of the song on their 2010 mother-daughter album Gift, including harmony vocals from Marry Waterson.
  • Canadian singer Neil Young covered "Wayfarin' Stranger" on his 2012 album Americana.
  • In her 2005 song "Travelin' Thru", which she composed for the soundtrack to the film Transamerica, Dolly Parton references "Wayfaring Stranger", including imagery from the song in her composition.
  • American psychedelic rock band H. P. Lovecraft recorded the song for their eponymous début album.
  • American singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen recorded a bluegrass cover of the song for his 2015 release, Happy Prisoner. The recording is a duet with singer Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.
  • In 2011, singer/Songwriter Ed Sheeran covered Jamie Woon's 2007 arrangement of Wayfaring Stranger.
  • Singer Outlaw (Terry Pugh) covers Wayfaring Stranger in his 2012 album "Old Friends".
  • Greek born vocalist Panayotis Terzakis included the song in his own arrangement (whisper mix) in the digital EP "Free"(2012). It has become a highlight in his appearances and has made the song known in Greece.
  • English boys choir Libera covers the song for their US tour, and the concert in Washington, D.C. recorded to be the album Angels Sing: Libera in America[5]
  • Singer/actor Steve Earle covers Wayfaring Stranger in the 2015 film "The World made Straight".
  • Singer/Songwriter Ricky Travers covers Wayfaring Stranger in the 2015 on Country and Western events in Belgium.
  • In 1935 an arrangement was included in The Sacred Harp shape note songbook ("Wayfaring Stranger 457").
  • Frankie Laine covers Wayfaring Stranger on his 1962 album "Call of the Wild"
  • In 2012, electronic music producer Pretty Lights covered "Wayfaring Stranger", making a collaboration with American bluegrass musician Dr Ralph Stanley and country singer LeAnn Rimes. The track was made for musical documentary Re:GENERATION Music Project, which describes the process of making music by artists coming from two different musical backgrounds. The resulting track is genre mash-up, combining electronic, bass-driven music with bluegrass & pop feel.
  • American Folk Singer Charlie Zahm included it on his 2002 Album Charlie Zahm's Americana.
  • A version appears on Neko Case's "The Tigers Have Spoken" album from 2004.
  • The Ghosts Of Johnson City recorded a version of the song for their 2015 album "Am I Born To Die?"
  • Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell includes lines from The Wayfaring Stranger in her own song, The Silky Veils of Ardor, from her 1978 double album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
  • American singer-songwriter Tim Buckley covers "Wayfaring Stranger" in the 1968 live album "Dream Letter: Live in London" (released in 1990) as a medley between "Wayfaring Stranger" and "You Got Me Runnin' ".
  • Performed by The Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band in the 2012 Belgium film "The Broken Circle Breakdown".
  • Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their 2004 album, Peace Like a River as "Wayfarin' Stranger".
  • Performed by Narrow Way on their 2015 album, Shelter Me as Poor wayfaring Stranger.[6]

In classical music[edit]

Roy Harris arranged it as the second of his American Ballads (1946).

Ernő Dohnányi used the tune (along with two other traditional American folktunes) in his final composition American Rhapsody (1953).

George Crumb used the song twice in his composition Unto The Hills — American Songbook III (2002). The 8-song cycle opens and closes with arrangements of the song for singer, percussion quartet and amplified piano.

American composer Joseph F. Harkins used the tune as the "old" theme in his Rhapsody on Themes Old and New (2015). The solo trombone serves as a vocalist "singing" the tune throughout the work.

Appearance in media[edit]

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. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Emmylou Harris - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ "RPM Country Tracks for August 23, 1980". RPM. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Libera". 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Cold Mountain Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  8. ^ "How the west was won Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Imposter (2012)-Soundtracks-IMDb". Retrieved February 2, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[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