The Wayfaring Stranger (song)

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"The Wayfaring Stranger" (also known as "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

A traveler through this world of woe

But 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 over Jordan

I am just going over home

I know dark clouds will gather round me

I know my way is rough and steep

But beau-teous fields lie just before me

Where God's redeemed their vigils keep

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'm just a going over home

Notable covers and uses[edit]

  • In 1935 an arrangement was included in The Sacred Harp shape note songbook as "Wayfaring Stranger" (457).
  • 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]
  • Frankie Laine covers "Wayfaring Stranger" on his 1962 album Call of the Wild.
  • Esther & Abi Ofarim recorded "Wayfaring Stranger" under the title "I'm Going Home" in 1966.[3]
  • American psychedelic rock band H. P. Lovecraft recorded the song for their eponymous début album in 1967.
  • 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'".
  • Joan Baez included the song on her 1969 album David's Album.
  • Actor/singer Michael Parks and Bonnie Bedelia sang "Wayfarin' Stranger" in the pilot episode of Then Came Bronson in 1969.
  • Glen Campbell recorded this song in 1972 on his album The Artistry of Glen Campbell.
  • 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.
  • Christian rock band DeGarmo & Key recorded a jazz version on their 1978 album This Time Thru.
  • 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.[4] It reached number 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.[5]
  • Singer / Songwriter / Actor Trace Adkins recorded his own arrangement of "The Wayfaring Stranger" on his 1997 album Big Time released by Capitol Records Nashville.
  • The American hip-hop band Spearhead included a modern overhaul of the song on their 1997 album Chocolate Supa Highway.
  • American singer-songwriter Eva Cassidy covers "Wayfaring Stranger" in her 1998 album Songbird.
  • Bass player Charlie Haden recorded the song for his 1999 album The Art of Song. It features Shirley Horn on vocals.
  • 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".
  • American folk singer Charlie Zahm included it on his 2002 album Charlie Zahm's Americana.
  • In 2003, former 10,000 Maniacs vocalist Natalie Merchant covered this song on her album The House Carpenter's Daughter.
  • Peter, Paul and Mary sing this song on their In These Times album.
  • A version appears on Neko Case's The Tigers Have Spoken album from 2004.
  • Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their 2004 album Peace Like a River as "Wayfarin' Stranger".
  • 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.
  • In 2006, Lisbeth Scott recorded her version for her album Rough and Steep.
  • The song was performed by Beth Whitney on her debut 2007 album Leave Your Shoes as "Wayfarin' Stranger".[6]
  • British folk musicians Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson included a version of the song on their 2010 mother-daughter album Gift, including harmony vocals from Marry Waterson.
  • 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 track's style is more like the original country folk song, with just acoustic guitars and two voices.
  • In 2011, singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran covered Jamie Woon's 2007 arrangement of "Wayfaring Stranger".
  • Canadian singer Neil Young covered "Wayfarin' Stranger" on his 2012 album Americana.
  • 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.
  • 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 the 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.
  • English boys choir Libera covers the song for their US tour, and the concert in Washington, D.C. was recorded to be the album Angels Sing: Libera in America.[7] (2014)
  • 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.
  • 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.[clarification needed]
  • The Ghosts Of Johnson City recorded a version of the song for their 2015 album Am I Born To Die?
  • Performed by Narrow Way on their 2015 album Shelter Me as "Poor Wayfaring Stranger".[8]
  • In 2014 Rebel Son recorded a version which was released on their EP "Bury Me In Southern Ground".
  • American Prog-Core outfit Amethyst Firewolf featured a cryptic take on Jamie Woon's version of "Wayfaring Stranger" in 2017 to announce a new album.
  • Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom included the song on his 2017 album Refuge.

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 Foster 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]

  • The song was used in the motion picture Cold Mountain, performed by Jack White.[9]
  • It was performed by Anne Baxter in the Wagon Train episode, "The Kitty Angel Story" (1959).
  • The song was also sung in the motion picture How The West Was Won from 1963.[10]
  • A cover by 16 Horsepower is featured in the final scenes of the 2012 documentary The Imposter.[11]
  • This song was featured in the 8 Simple Rules episode entitled "Let's Keep Going", Part 2. It was said to be a favorite song of Paul Hennessy, a character on the show.
  • The song was featured in the fifth-season premiere of the American television drama Nashville, the episode being titled "The Wayfaring Stranger".
  • The Johnny Cash version of the song features in Hap and Leonard season 2, Episode 4 "Bad Mojo".[12]
  • The song was performed by The Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band in the 2012 Belgium film The Broken Circle Breakdown.
  • This song was sung by Thom Allison, playing Pree, in the penultimate episode of the third season of Killjoys, with the word 'Jordan' changed to 'yonder.'
  • It was performed by Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker to open The Last of Us Part II panel at PSX 2017.[13]
  • This song was featured in the Wagon Train TV series episode of October 9, 1957 entitled "The Ruth Owens Story." It was sung by Shelley Winters, as the character, Ruth Owens, in the opening minutes of the episode.
  • This song was performed by a transgender character in the 2011 German film Romeos.

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. ^
  4. ^ "Emmylou Harris - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  5. ^ "RPM Country Tracks for August 23, 1980". RPM. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Libera". 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Cold Mountain Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  10. ^ "How the west was won Soundtrack". Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  11. ^ "The Imposter (2012)-Soundtracks-IMDb". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  12. ^ "Music from Hap and Leonard S2E04". Tunefind. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  13. ^ Ashley Johnson & Troy Baker singing at PSX | PSX 2017, 2017-12-09, retrieved 2018-04-25
  14. ^ Fiona Ritchie & Doug Orr (2014). Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. xxii. ISBN 978-1-4696-1822-7.

Further reading[edit]

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