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Goodnight Irene

[ Roud 11681 ; Ballad Index LoF315 ; DT IRENGDNT , IRENGDN3 ; Mudcat 8912 ; Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter]

Goodnight Irene is a 20th century American folk standard, that was recorded for the first time by Lead Belly in 1932, though he “was singing a version of the song from as early as 1908, which he claimed to have learned from his uncle Terell.” [Wikipedia] It was the first folk song that John Lomax recorded with his new portable equipment for the Archive of American Folk Song. The Weavers had a #1 charts hit with their recording of Goodnight Irene in 1950.

The Crofters sang Irene Goodnight on their 1969 EP Four More From the Crofters.

Japheth Dean played the tune of Gooodnight Irene in 1994 on the Hokey Pokey charity CD Out on the Rolling Sea, a tribute to the music of Bahamian musicians Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family.

Jon Boden sang Goodnight Irene as the 28 October 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

I really love this song and was quite chuffed when Tom Waits recorded it on Orphans, as well as Young at Heart, which is another unrelated favourite of mine—nice to have your musical taste validated by a genius. He also does a great Two Sisters—definitely a closet folky.

Ron Kavana sang Goodnight Irene in 2011 on his CD 40 Favourite Folk Songs.

Adam Holmes sang Irene on his 2024 album The Voice of Scotland.


Jon Boden sings Goodnight Irene

Last Saturday night I got married,
Me and my wife settled down;
Now me and my wife are parted,
I’m gonna take me a stroll uptown.

Chorus (after each verse):
Irene, goodnight, Irene; Irene, goodnight.
Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene,
I’ll kiss you in my dreams

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town;
Sometimes I get a notion
To jump in the river and drown.

I love Irene, God knows, I do,
I love her till the seas run dry,
And if Irene turns her back on me
I’m gonna take morphine and die.