Connections between folk songs


Fev 18 2007, 1h41

A more permanent list (not one that just sticks in my head) of folk songs that have connections to other songs, either in melodic structure or lyric structure. In constant progress!

The bolded, heading songs are in order of when I discover their connections. Songs below each header song are presented in an organised, chronological (dated) order of the supposed connection (e.g. a 1928 song would come before a 1966 song). The comments below the post present some more indepth discussion! :)

* Bold = "original"/earliest version of song I know
* Below bold = song connected to the "original"
* Next to song = type of connection between songs (lyrics/theme/melody/same)
* Italicised text = user at who has contributed. :)

1962: Lemon Tree
1964: Across the Hills (melody)

1957: Wagoner's Lad
1951 (weak connection): On Top of Old Smoky (lyrics: a thief will just rob you)
1963: Pretty Mary IamFlood (lyrics)
1965: Farewell Angelina (melody)
1967: Lady Came From Baltimore IamFlood (theme: poverty of lovers)

Trad: Nottamun Town / 1950s: Nottamun Town (info)
1963: Masters of War (melody)

1957: The Patriot Game
1960s: The Patriot Game (same)
1951 (weak connection): On Top of Old Smoky (melody)
1963/4: With God On Our Side Robo2448 (melody)

Trad: Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies
1951 (weak connection): On Top of Old Smoky (theme: warning young maidens)
1963: Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens (same)
1963: Tiny Sparrow IamFlood (same)
1977: The Silky Veils of Ardor (lyrics)

Trad: Stewball
Ranger's Command (melody)

1940s: Mean Talking Blues
1940: Talking Dust Bowl Blues gnatware (melody)
1958: East Texas Talking Blues IamFlood (melody)
1963: Talkin' World War III Blues (melody)
1965: Talking Birmingham Ham (melody)

Trad: The Chimes of Trinity
1964: Chimes of Freedom TreeWithRoots (lyrics/melody/theme)

1960: (Paul Clayton) Who's Goin' Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone?
1962/3: Don't think Twice, it's alright TreeWithRoots (lyrics/melody)

1941: 1913 Massacre
Song to WoodyTreeWithRoots (melody)

(Child Ballad) Lord Franklin
1961/2: Bob Dylan's Dream TreeWithRoots (lyrics/melody/theme: dreams)

1940s/50s: Yellow Women's Doorbells
1959?: I Got Stripes TreeWithRoots (melody)

Jarama Valley
Red River Valley (lyrics/melody)
1958: That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine (melody)

Johnson and Turner Blues
1979: Gonna Change My Way of Thinking (theme/lyrics/
"gonna change my way of living/thinking")

Trad: Froggie Went A-Courtin'
1967: Apple Suckling Tree TreeWithRoots (melody)

1967: Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread
1967: The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (melody/some lyrics)

1963: Pretty Peggy-O
1962: Fennario (melody/lyrics)

1964: Mr. Moonlight
1965: Wild Mountain Thyme (melody - guitar)

Trad: Battle Hymn of the Republic
1957/earlier: John Brown's Body (melody)

1957/earlier: Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep
1960/earlier: All My Trials (lyrics/3 chains and pages, for freedom)
1962: Gospel Plow (lyrics/3 links and chains for freedom)
1969: When You Awake (lyrics/I'd stand on the rock where Moses stood.)

Trad/1956: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
1962: Gospel Plow (lyrics/"hold on"; theme)

Trad: Cocaine Blues
1962: Come Back Baby (melody)

Farmer-Labor Train
Wabash Cannonball (melody/lyrics)

John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man
Tom Joad - Part 1 (melody)
Tom Joad - Part 2 (melody)

Midnight Special
The Tijuana Jail (melody, theme)

Lonesome Valley
Join the Farmer's Union (melody, theme)
Reverend Mr. Black (melody, theme)

The Leaving Of Liverpool (same as Nigel Denver version)
Farewell (melody, lyrics, theme)
The Last Thing On My Mind (melody, lyrics, theme)

Down On Penny's Farm
Hard Times in New York Town (lyrics/theme/melody)

Lawdy Miss Clawdy
Caledonia's Party jerdacuttupman (melody)

Junko Partner
Will The Circle Be Unbroken? jerdacuttupman (melody)
Viola Lee's blues jerdacuttupman (lyrics/theme)
Caledonia's Party jerdacuttupman (lyrics/theme)

Trad/1790s: The Unfortunate Rake
Trad/1830s: The Newry Highwayman jerdacuttupman (lyrics/theme)
Trad/1890s: St. James Infirmary jerdacuttupman (lyrics/theme)
Trad/1890s: The Streets Of Laredo (theme/lyrics/melody)
Trad: Ol' Roison the Beau jerdacuttupman (lyrics/theme)

Trad/1800s: Tramps and Hawkers [Scottish] / Paddy West [Irish] / Tall Men Riding [American] / Young Man From Canada [Canadian]
1881: The Ballad of Peter Emberly [Canadian] TreeWithRoots (melody/theme)
1962: The ballad of Donald White TreeWithRoots (melody/lyrics/theme)
1967: I Pity the Poor Immigrant TreeWithRoots (melody/theme)

1927-32: Jamestown Exhibition
1962?: Coffee Blues (melody)

1927: My Name Is John Johanna
Trad/1965 version: Buffalo Skinners (melody) the Jim Kweskin version. NOT Seeger or Guthrie's. a.k.a. "On the Trail of the Buffalo" or "the Hills of Mexico"
1992: Canadee-I-O (very vague thematic and lyrical link between Buffalo Skinners & Captain Kennedy, but keep in mind the connection between Captain Kennedy and My Name is John Johanna
1980: Captain Kennedy (lyrics/theme and melody to My Name is John Johanna)

Suggestions are more than welcome. <3 Also, check out this Folk Music library.


  • Phillyzero

    Neat stuff.

    Fev 18 2007, 2h01
  • IamFlood

    I agree with Phillyzero. I always loved Farewell Angelina. Now I have an excuse to get some Pete Seeger.

    Fev 20 2007, 0h34
  • IamFlood

    I actually haven't been able to find that song anywhere and my sources don't often fail me. You seem to be one of the privileged 39 listeners on and if you could send said song I would be very appreciative. My e-mail is I also would be interested to know which Blake poem is connected to Ballad in Plain D. I usually make strange connections that turn out to be odd coincidences. Anyway thanks again.

    Fev 28 2007, 6h52
  • behindthestars

    Aww, sure, that's no problem. In fact, I've uploaded it to YouSendIt and will post the link here in case anyone else wants it. Enjoy! :D I'm falling in love with Seeger everyday - listening to a gorgeous live version of him and a crowd doing [i]We Shall Overcome[/i] has been the opening, middle and end of my days recently. And that Blake poem is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and within that, A Memorable Fancy (Plates 6-7). Looking at the particular line that I connected to Dylan now, it doesn't seem as directly connected... but I'll stick with my instinct because I still feel that there are some beautiful similarities between the lines. [b]Blake[/b]: [i]How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way / Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?[/i] [b]Dylan[/b]: [i]...And I answer them most mysteriously / Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?[/i] I've always loved that Dylan line, so when I read it in Blake it struck out to me. But, opinions welcome! Is it bad that whenever I read Blake I think of Allen Ginsberg and Dylan? ;) And I love making the strangest connections, when everything suddenly fits together and makes so much sense... Also, I've added one more comparison to the list. :)

    Fev 28 2007, 18h56
  • Robo2448

    I just bought a Kingston Trio cd the other day and Bob totally ripped off the melody of With God On Our Side from the song The Patriot Game. I like how when Dylan rips people off I just think it makes him cooler. Whereas if someone ripped off Dylan I'd probably be pretty pissed. haha. With God On Our Side is way better anyways, but the Kingston Trio are really good.

    Fev 28 2007, 23h55
  • behindthestars

    Ooh, thank you for that! I've added your connection to the list (after about a month, but yay!) exciiiiiting. I definitely need to get some Kingston Trio stuff. I just love little connections between everything. And I think Dylan definitely has that dodgy license to do pretty much whatever he wants, and get away with it all the time... lol. (He did that perfectly with Masters of War!) Annnnd I've added another comparison to the list - one of my favourite folkie songs, [i]Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies/Maidens[/i], linking in very juicily (lyrics-wise) with The Silky Veils of Ardor: compare Joan's version to Joni's.

    Mar 20 2007, 23h38
  • behindthestars

    Added a few more things - I'm not too sure about the Stewball/Ranger's Command connection, but they sounded similar to me at 3amish. Wouldn't be very suprising, either - as Dylan's cheeky copying of Woody's song isn't! ;)

    Mar 30 2007, 14h50
  • IamFlood

    I actually have a connection related to Talkin' World War III Blues. East Texas Talking Blues by Ramblin' Jack Elliot. If interested in said song I will return the favor.

    Mar 31 2007, 0h06
  • gnatware

    Another connection for Dylan's Talkin' World War III Blues: Talking Dust Bowl Blues.

    Abr 15 2007, 3h21
  • behindthestars

    Awesome, I've added that to the list! Thank you. <3

    Abr 16 2007, 13h35
  • TreeWithRoots

    I know of a few interesting Dylan connections: In Dave Van Ronk's autobiography (it's great. highly recommended), Dave relates how his mother would sing him old Irish tunes and how they stayed with him since then. As an example, he told the story of how one day he sang Dylan an old song of his mothers' called The Chimes of Trinity. Dylan seems to have reworked this into Chimes of Freedom. I don't think Dave ever recorded a version, though, and I've never heard of the tune elsewhere. However, in the book Dave gives us a verse of Chimes of Trinity: [i]Tolling for the outcast, tolling for the gay, Tolling for the [something something], long passed away, As we whiled away the hours, down on old Broadway, And we listened to the chimes of Trinity.[/i] I thought that was neat, even though the song itself seems to have vanished in the mists of time. Also, Paul Clayton is widely credited for the melody to Don't Think Twice from his song Who's Goin' Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone?, itself based on an old Appalachian folk tune. I've never heard it, but here's a verse: [i]It ain't no use to sit and sigh now, darlin, And it ain't no use to sit and cry now, T'ain't no use to sit and wonder why, darlin, Just wonder who's gonna buy you ribbons when I'm gone. [/i] Also (yeah yeah...), it might be worth looking up Child Ballad Lord Franklin as source of the structure/melody? for Bob Dylan's Dream. And don't forget Woody's 1913 Massacre for the melody of Song for Woody, though that's a bit obvious... Sorry, I think this kind of thing is really cool! I wish I had more than just Dylan connections, though. Maybe something'll come to mind...

    Abr 17 2007, 5h19
  • behindthestars

    :O Thank you so much TreeWithRoots! That is more than amazing. :) I did a little quick research on The Chimes of Trinity and it's got me all excited... apparently Dave's grandmother based it on a folksong written by John E. McCann and composed by Sam Rosenberg in 1882 (link), and referred to the the chimes of Trinity Church in New York. :) So interesting. I've added that to the list. :) Ooh, I did read about that Paul Clayton connection to Don't Think Twice a while ago... and thanks for all the other collections! How did you find these all out? That bobdylanroots page is awesome for all these Dylan connections too. I would spend days just reading about everything if I could. And don't apologise, I love finding connections too of course! Once you get started with Dylan, it's hard to stop... there are so many connections. Let's not even get started on [i]Modern Times[/i]! lol. Thanks so much again! That was a mega addition to the list. ;)

    Abr 25 2007, 21h05
  • TreeWithRoots

    Wow, your research on Chimes of Trinity turned up more than mine did. I can't remember finding anything apart from what DVR told. Good info! Yeah I was floored by how many little parts of Modern Times I recognised from other sources. I like that. It makes it seem more like a link in the folk music chain than just a branch. I also love how he can borrow from all these places and still remain astoundingly original. A small aside (I can't resist)... ever heard Leadbelly do Yellow Women's Doorbells? Johnny Cash seems to have borrowed the melody, quite intact, for his I Got Stripes. Just another part of the folk tradition...

    Abr 26 2007, 2h16
  • behindthestars

    :D Yeah, Modern Times is just a complete bomb of musical history. I like it too. It just makes it millions of times more interesting and wild to listen to, makes you feel like you're listening to thousands of songs rolled into one. And that's Dylan for you! He committs daylight robbery and still makes it seem the classiest thing to do. But, like you said... he's only helping the tree the blossom so much more. His own interest in music has helped to branch out our own musical tastes, which is magic. ;) And I've added that to the list! And not resisting is good! Thank you. :D Annnd I've added The Everly Brothers' [i]That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine[/i] as a connection to Guthrie's [i]Red River Valley[/i], in terms of melody. It just struck me when I heard it (actually from Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, hence proving my previous point! :P) that it sounded really similar to Guthrie's song... it may just be one of those common chord changes type of songs, but I like that little connection.

    Mai 2 2007, 21h23
  • TreeWithRoots

    You know, I've never heard the Everly Brothers [i]That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine[/i], but I think Gene Autry had a song with the same title. Could it be the same one?

    Mai 8 2007, 16h47
  • behindthestars

    According to Dylan himself on his Theme Time Radio Hour show about Fathers, Gene Autry actually wrote the song himself in 1932, and it was his first gold hit!

    Mai 12 2007, 1h04
  • KVanKirk

    Nice musical/literary digging! Now if only we could find a way to make a living that allowed us to sit, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books and old recordings and put everything together. There's not much out there that doesn't have roots going back to something else.

    Mai 15 2007, 2h17
  • behindthestars

    :) I agree! It feels like an endless jigsaw puzzle waiting to be completed, and I'd happily spend my life doing this sort of thing. Everything has roots, and it's so exciting! :D Annnd... I just added a v. v. little - perhaps pedantic? But I guess that's what happens when you hear these little things - connection to the list: listening to Big Joe Turner's [i]Johnson And Turner Blues[/i], where gonna change my way of living/thinking is sort of repeated at the beginning of several verses - just very slightly reminded me of Dylan's own [i]Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking[/i]. Tiny connection I know, but... had to add it to the list. And although they're in very different contexts, they do talk about those similar things - changing their ways, trying to live a better life in their eyes... oh who am I kidding! I just liked the connection. And of course, both bluesy songs = instant connection...?

    Mai 19 2007, 2h13
  • TreeWithRoots

    Am I crazy, or does Apple Suckling Tree sound alot like Froggie Went a-Courtin'? I'm not sure, since I haven't heard the latter in ages and don't have a recording of it. (I know Bob does it on Good As I Been To You or something, but I don't have it) Whatever. This list is lookin' good .

    Mai 19 2007, 23h12
  • behindthestars

    Following a bit of late musical research (haha... I know, I'm a bad researcher/exams!) and comparing Dylan's [i]Apple Suckling Tree[/i] and Seeger's version of [i]Froggie Went A-Courtin'[/i] - there is an unmistakable melodic [and definitely some lyrical] connection between the two! Ooh. Added. :D (thank yooou) Actually, there seem to be so many sneaky connections scattered around the Basement Tapes (have you managed to get the extensive bootleg version yet/Genuine Basement Tapes?) - not only with external songs, but also between the songs themselves, and with some of Dylan's later songs (I find [i]Yea! Heavy And A Bottle of Bread[/i] has that same drawling narrative style found in [i]The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest[/i]) I've also added a bit of an obvious (?) little connection - the widely covered [i]Fennario[/i] and Dylan's version of [i]Pretty Peggy-O[/i]. Essentially they're the same song. There seems to be a lot of information about it online, but summed up, from Wikipedia: [quote]The oldest known version of the Scottish ballad is called [i]The Bonnie Lass O' Fyvie[/i]. Another early transcribed version is given under the title [i]Bonnie Barbara-O[/i]. An early English version Handsome Polly-O is also present, though in slightly different settings. Another English version is called [i]Pretty Peggy of Derby[/i]. The song probably travelled with Scottish immigrants to America. Variants of the song refer to the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. A Dixie version of the song makes the final resting place of the captain to be Louisiana. The last two stanzas from the Bob Dylan version is typical of such Americanized forms (Died for a maid He's buried somewheres in Louisiana-O.)[...] Over time, the name of Fyvie also got corrupted, and often nonsense words like Fennario, Fernario, Finario, Fidio, Ivory or Ireo were placed in its stead to fit the metre and rhyme. As a result, the song is commonly referred to as Fennario. The 1960s folk music movement saw Peggy-O become a common song in many concerts owing to its clear melody and lilting rhyme.[/quote] :D Promise I'll try and do this addition thing faster next time.

    Jun 6 2007, 0h40
  • IamFlood

    I came across another connection, Peter, Paul and Mary's Pretty Mary is Wagoner's Lad with an extra verse thrown in.

    Jun 13 2007, 22h02
  • behindthestars

    Oooh, awesome! I've added that in. Thank you. :) Actually I haven't heard PPM's [i]Pretty Mary[/i] before. :O I'm going to have to do a little search.

    Jun 14 2007, 1h10
  • behindthestars

    I'm on a roll - actually, I've been meaning to add this connection for a while: The Beatles' [i]Mr. Moonlight[/i] (am I one of the only few that *adores* that song? I just love the opening - and it has that sort of tough, moody and rudimentary sort of feeling about it, and all about the moon. Piano Red's original is incredible too!) and Joan Baez's [i]The Wild Mountain Thyme[/i] - this may be pushing it, but it's all about that little opening guitar riff. I did a little guitaring and felt it to be a simply play around on Gmajor. Baez seems to have a more calypso feel to it... so of course they're totally different songs, Shutting up.

    Jun 14 2007, 18h43
  • IamFlood

    Here's the Peter, Paul and Mary song if you haven't already found it:

    Jun 14 2007, 20h02
  • TreeWithRoots

    Aw I haven't heard Baez do Wild Mountain Thyme. I've only heard it done by Dylan (stunning version at Isle of Wight '69) and a more recent version by the Clancy Brothers. What a pretty song, though. I'll just use my imagination to think what Baez could possibly be doing for it to be anything like Mr. Moonlight haha

    Jun 24 2007, 3h39
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