Song of the Day: “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”


Mournful is the best way to describe Leadbelly’s voice in the song popularized by Nirvana on their live album, MTV Unplugged in New York. While Nirvana’s version captured the attention of audiences, the original lament was recorded by a canonized blues artist whose given name was Huddie William Ledbetter. “My girl, my girl, where did you go,” keens Leadbelly in the now-famous lines, and he answers himself with the refrain, ” I’m going where the cold wind blows.” The sorrow in the singer’s voice makes us fear the worst for the nameless girl from the song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” who seems fully aware of her grim future, a future where she “sleeps” in the dark, cold forest of the soul.

Read more of Max Gray at Big City Sasquatch or follow him on Twitter @City_Sasquatch. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Encounters, Mount Hope, Conte,, and English Kills Review. He co-hosts the etymology podcast Words For Dinner and is a graduate of the Rutgers-Newark MFA program. More from this author →