Worried Man Blues

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"Worried Man Blues" is a folk song in the roots music repertoire. It is cataloged as Roud Folk Song Index No. 4753. Like many folk songs passed by oral tradition, the lyrics vary from version to version, but generally all contain the chorus "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song/It takes a worried man to sing a worried song/I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long." The verses tell the story of a man imprisoned for unknown reasons "I went across the river, and I lay down to sleep/When I woke up, had shackles on my feet", who pines for his lost love, who is "on the train and gone."

Notable recordings and performances[edit]

Performed by the Carter Family

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The Carter Family recorded this song for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1930.[1]

It was also recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935, Woody Guthrie in 1940, the Kingston Trio in 1959 (as "A Worried Man" with new verses),[2] Ramblin' Jack Elliott in the 1960s, Johnny Cash in 1969, Pete Seeger in 1970 (with Johnny Cash), Devo in 1979, Van Morrison in 1998, Elliott Murphy in 2013, and numerous other artists.

Devo's song "It Takes A Worried Man" a.k.a. "Worried Man Blues" was recorded in 1979. It is a cover of the folk song by The Carter Family, from the film Human Highway (1982).

Half Man Half Biscuit included a version on their 2001 EP Editor's Recommendation.

It features on Paolo Nutini's 2009 album, Sunny Side Up.

References by other artists[edit]

In their 1995 song, "Rollerkoaster", indie band Railroad Jerk references "Worried Man Blues" in the refrain, as Marcellus Hall sings, "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song, and I'm not one of 'em!"

In Beck's 1996 song, "Hotwax", he sings "It takes a backwash man to sing a backwash song."

The band Old 97's in their 1997 song, "Big Brown Eyes" include the line "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song."

The Squirrel Nut Zippers' 2009 song, "It Happens All the Time," contains the line "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song."


  1. ^ "Victor matrix BVE-59987. Worried man blues / Carter Family". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved December 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 18 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.