Banks Of the Ohio

Album: Joan Baez, Vol. 2 (1961)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song, about a lover who murders his girlfriend because she won't marry him, was written sometime in the 1800s. The first recorded version of it was the August 12, 1927 version by Red Patterson's Piedmont Log Rollers.
  • Another song called "Pretty Polly," which dates to about the same time, is rumored to be, in fact, the same song. The storyline is similar, and the protagonist's name is the same: Willie.
  • In addition to Joan Baez, artists including Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, Pete Seeger, and the Carter Family have recorded this song, each with a slightly different twist to the traditional lyrics. The version by the Blue Sky Boys was featured in the 1973 Ryan O'Neal movie Paper Moon.
  • WAMU-PBS, a radio series of bluegrass music, uses this song as its theme song.
  • Olivia Newton-John recorded her version in 1971. Released as a single, it peaked at #6 in the UK, #94 in the US and topped the chart in her home country of Australia.
  • Dolly Parton recorded the song for her 2014 Blue Smoke album. She told Get Out! magazine: "All of my life I've been singing that song, and it was a folk ballad. I just always liked it, and it was such a man's song about a guy who killed his girlfriend. I decided that I was going to write a part like I was a reporter or a writer, who would be seeing it from that point of view. It makes it easier for a woman to sing it."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Boz Scaggs

Boz ScaggsSongwriter Interviews

The "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" singer makes a habit of playing with the best in the business.

Philip Cody

Philip CodySongwriter Interviews

A talented lyricist, Philip helped revive Neil Sedaka's career with the words to "Laughter In The Rain" and "Bad Blood."

Strange Magnetics

Strange MagneticsSong Writing

How Bing Crosby, Les Paul, a US Army Signal Corps Officer, and the Nazis helped shape rock and Roll.

Charlie Benante of Anthrax

Charlie Benante of AnthraxSongwriter Interviews

The drummer for Anthrax is also a key songwriter. He explains how the group puts their songs together and tells the stories behind some of their classics.

Phone Booth Songs

Phone Booth SongsSong Writing

Phone booths are nearly extinct, but they provided storylines for some of the most profound songs of the pre-cell phone era.

Brandi Carlile

Brandi CarlileSongwriter Interviews

As a 5-year-old, Brandi was writing lyrics to instrumental versions lullabies. She still puts her heart into her songs, including the one Elton John sings on.