Lyrical Research

The title of In the Pines comes from an American folk song whose origins are impossible to trace because of how it passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. While its original author is lost to time there have been thousands of versions preformed or recorded over the last hundred years. I say hundred years because we have a printed version from 1917 but the origins of the song likely stretch back farther.

Adding to the confusion, the song isn’t known only by the title In the Pines. It’s sometimes called “Black Girl”, “Black Gal”, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”, “The Longest Train”, “Pine Grove Blues”, “Ma Negresse”, “Lonesome Road Blues”, “Poor Girl”, “Hey Girl”, “Georgia Pines”,  and many more. This makes it difficult to track the lineage or even how many versions are out there. This muddled and shared history goes a long ways to reinforcing one of the main themes the game. Knowledge often passes from hand to hand, but isn’t perfectly preserved.

One of the things I really want to do with In the Pines was to add my voice to the legacy of the song itself. I’m not a musician, despite many failed attempts to learn to play guitar, and I’m not a singer, unless you count bellowing in the shower as singing, so I wasn’t sure how I’d go about that. Luckily, I know a few musicians and maybe I can get something done on that front.

First though, I need to figure out the lyrics. This is a problem because there are so many variations that I don’t want to just turn things over and see what people come up with. I want to point the song at them game’s theme so it feels like the two belong together and some of the versions of In the Pines don’t aim in the same direction I am.

With all of that in mind, lets start examining some of the most notable variations of the song. Along with selecting versions that I thought were important I also tried to include versions from every decade for the last hundred years. I hope this helps to illustrate how the song has passed through time.

“Black Girl” – Cecil Sharp, 1917

This is the first known printed version of the song. It’s only four lines and the melody but it starts the trend of writing down the song.

Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me
Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
And shivered when the cold wind blows

“In the Pines” – Dock Walsh, 1926

This is the first known commercial version of the song. There was another recording in 1925 but it’s unattributed and difficult to find.

In the pines, in the pines where the sun never shined
And I shivered when the cold wind blow

Oh, if I minded what Grandma said, oh were would I’ve been tonight
I’d’ve been in the pines where the sun never shined, and then shiverin’ when the cold wind blows

The longest train I ever saw went down the Georgi’ line
The engine, it stopped at a six-mile post, the cabin never left the town

Now darling, now darling, don’t tell me no lie. Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shined and I shivered when the cold winds blow

The prettiest little girl that I ever saw was walking down the line
Her hair, it was of a curly type, her cheeks were rosy red

Now darling, now darling, don’t tell me no lie. Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines and I shivered when the cold winds blow

The train run back one mile from town and killed my girl, you know
Her head was caught in the driver wheel, her body I never could find

Now darling, now darling, don’t tell me no lie. Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shine and I shivered when the cold winds blow

The best of friends has to part some time, then why not you and I

Now darling, oh darling, don’t tell me no lie. Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shine and I shivered when the cold winds blow

Oh, a transfer station has brought me here, take a-money for to carry me away

Now darling, now darling, don’t tell me no lie. Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shine and I shivered when the cold winds blow

“The Longest Train” – J. E. Mainer & His Mountaineers, 1935

This version is interesting because it has some pretty striking changes from other versions seen before. It also put more focus on the Longest Train, even including it in the title.

The longest train I ever saw was the day I left my home
The engine had passed the six-mile post and the cab had never left town

Look up, look down that lonesome road where you and I must go
To the pines, to the pines, where the sun never shines, where I shiver when the cold wind blows

The prettiest little girl I ever saw was walking down the line
Her cheek was painted rosy red and her hair hung down behind

Look up, look down that lonesome road where you and I must go
To the pines, to the pines, where the sun never shines, where I shiver when the cold wind blows

That train run back four mile from town, and killed my girl, you know
Her head was found in the driver wheel, her body I never could find

Look up, look down that lonesome road where you and I must go
To the pines, to the pines, where the sun never shines, where I shiver when the cold wind blows

“In the Pines” – Bill Monroe, 1941

One of the most influential versions of the song, especially in the bluegrass and country music scenes.

The longest train I ever saw
Went down that Georgia line
The engine passed at six o’clock
And the cab passed by at nine

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold wind blows

I asked my captain for the time of day
He said he throwed his watch away
A long steel rail and a short cross tie
I’m on my way back home

Little girl, little girl, what have I done
That makes you treat me so
You caused me to weep, you caused me to mourn
You caused me to leave my home

My father was an engineer
Died a mile out of town
His head was found in the driving gear
But his body was never found

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Lead Belly, 1944 – 1948

Often cited as the definitive version of the song, Lead Belly recorded over a half-dozen versions of the song, making its exact date difficult to track.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I’m going the cold wind blows
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, don’t you lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My husband was a hardworking man
Killed a mile and a half from here
His head was found in a driving wheel
And his body hasn’t ever been found

My girl, my girl, don’t you lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

“In the Pines” – Lead Belly, 1944 – 1948

To show the variations that Lead Belly used I’ve included a second set of lyrics from him.

Black girl, black Girl, dont lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?
In the pines, In the pines, Where the sun never shine
I shivered the whole night through.

Black girl, black girl, where will you go
Im going where the cold wind blows
In the pines, In the pines, Where the sun never shine
I will shiver the whole night through.

Black girl, black Girl, dont lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?
In the pines, In the pines, Where the sun never shine
I shivered the whole night through.

My Husband was a Railroad man
Killed a mile and a half from here
His head, was found, In a drivers wheel
And his body hasn’t never been found.

Black girl, black girl, where will you go
Im going where the cold wind blows
You called me weak, and you called me the most
You called rita, bring me back home.

“In the Pines” – The Louvin Brothers, 1956

I randomly selected this version from the 1950s to show how the song keeps showing up time and time again.

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows
little girl, little girl, what have i done
thats made you treat me so

You’ve caused me to weep, you’ve caused me to mourn
You’ve caused me to leave my home
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

The longest train I ever saw
Went down that Georgia Line
The engine passed at six o’clock
and The cab went by at nine

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

The longest train I ever saw
was 19 holters long
the only girl i ever loved
is on that train and gone

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

“Black Girl” – The Four Pennies, 1964

One of the first versions of the song that was significantly successful commercially, having reached No. 20 in the British charts.

Black girl, black girl, tell me no lies,
where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines,
where the sun never shines
To shiver, the whole night through

Her husband was a railroad man,
killed at the driving wheel
She found his body all crushed & torn
under the twisted steel

It caused her to weep, it caused her to moan
It caused her to lose her mind
She thought of how she lost her man,
So brave, so gentle & kind

Now she wonders alone beneath the trees,
she’s happy to mourn her man
And the cold wind blows to chill her bones
And sea mist hangs over her head

Black girl, black girl, Where will you go?
She goes where the cold wind blows
In the pines, in the pines,
where the sun never shines
To shiver, the whole night through

“In the Pines” – Grateful Dead, 1966

This was one of the first well-known artists of the last few decades I noticed who covered the song. I might be missing someone along the way, but it’s hard to argue with the success of the Grateful Dead.

Little girl, little girl what have I done
To make you treat me so
You have caused me to weep, you have caused me to moan
You have caused me to leave my home

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
I shiver when the cold winds blow

My daddy was a railroad man
Drove a mile and a half uptown
His head was found ‘neath the driving wheel
His body has never been found

The longest train I ever saw
Was down that northern line
The engine passed by at ten o’clock
The cab passed by at nine

Little girl, little girl what have I done
To make you treat me so
You have caused me to weep, you have caused me to moan
You have caused me to leave my home

“Black Girl” – Long John Baldry & Maggie Bell, 1971

I picked out his one for the 1970s because it was a duet, a concept I’ve felt would fit the song well.

Black girl, black girl
Don’t you lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

‘Neath the pines, ‘neath the pines
Where the sun never shines
And I shivered in the cold, deadly cold*

Her husband was a railroad man
He died a half mile out of town

His head was found ‘neath the driving wheel
But his body was never, ever found

Black girl, black girl
Don’t you lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

‘Neath the pines, ‘neath the pines
Where the sun never shines
And I shivered in the cold, deadly cold

And I shivered the whole night through”

“In the Pines” – The Oakridge Boys, 1983

I picked out this version for the 1980s since it’s another case of a successful artist doing a version.

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

Little girl, little girl what have I done
That made you grieve me so
You caused me to weep
You caused me to moan
You caused me to leave my home

The longest train I ever saw
Went down that Georgia Line
The engine passed at six o’clock
And the cab went by at nine

The longest train I ever saw
Was nineteen coaches long
The only girl I ever loved
Is on that train and gone

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Mark Lanegan, 1990

This version is significant because it’s the version that Kurt Cobain learned. Everything from the lyrics to the performance is strikingly similar.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
I would shiver all night through

Her husband was a hard-workin’ man
Til a mile and a half from here
His head was found in a dried up well
And his body never was found

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
I would shiver all night through
(shiver for me now)

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I’m goin’ where the cold winds blow
In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver all night through

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Nirvana, 1994

It’s hard to argue that this version brought the song back into the public consciousness.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I’m going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

Her husband, was a hard working man
Just about a mile from here
His head was found in a driving wheel
But his body never was found

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I’m going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I’m going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

“In the Pines” – Dolly Parton, 1994

I’ve included this version because it’s another successful artists’ rendition.

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows
My love, my love, what have I done
To make you treat me so
You’ve caused me to weep, you’ve caused me to mourn
You’ve caused me to leave my home

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

The longest train I ever saw
Went down that Georgia Line
The engine passed at six o’clock
The caboose went by at nine

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows

I asked my captain for the time of day
He said he throwed his watch away

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows
Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo

“In the Pines” – Dee Dee Ramone & Youth Gone Mad, 2002

While I was able to find written translations of every other version when I got to picking one for the 2000s I transcribed these lyrics myself.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun it never shines
I will shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, oh where will you go?
I’m going where the cold winds blows

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun don’t never shine
I will shiver the whole night through

Them howls them howls
their the working man
Just about a mile from here

His head was found in a driving wheel
but his body it never was found

My girl, my girl don’t you lie to me
tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun it never shines
I will shiver the whole night though

my girl, my girl, oh where will you go
I’m going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun don’t ever shine
I will shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, don’t you lie to me
tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun don’t ever shine
I will shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl oh where will you go
Well going ohhh oh ahh aaahoo

In the pines, in the pines
where the sun don’t ever shine
I will shiver the

Whole night through

“In the Pines” – Rob Coffinshaker, 2011

This is easily one of my favorite versions of the song, both in lyrics and style.

True love, true love, dont lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?
I slept, in the pines, where the sun never shine
And you shiver when the cold wind moans.

Tell me where did you get
That pretty little dress
And the shoes that you wear so fine?
I got the dress, from a driver in the mine
And the shoes from a man who sleeps in the pines

Little girl, little girl, tell me what have i ever done
To make you treat me so?
You’ve caused me to weep
You’ve caused me to mourn
You’ve caused me to leave my home…

True love, true love, tell me where will you go?
Well, Im going where the cold wind moans
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
I will shiver the whole night through.

“In the Pines” – Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis, 2014

If this isn’t the most recent version as of the time of this writing it’s at least one of them. It demonstrates how the lyrics can be altered ever so slightly to better reflect another narrative.

little girl little girl dont lie to me
tell me where did you sleep last night
in the pines in the pines where the sun never shines
we’ll shiver the whole night through

my daddy was a railroad man
killed a mile and a half from here
his head was found in the driver’s wheel
his body was never found

in the pines in the pines where the sun never shines
we’ll shiver the whole night through

you’ve caused me to weep
you’ve caused me to mourn
caused me to lose my home

little girl little girl
where’d you sleep last night
not even your mother knows
in the pines in the pines where the sun never shines
we’ll shiver when the cold winds blow

“The Song of Mahl” – Houses of the Blooded: Wilderness, 2012

Breaking the timeline, I want to finish with this version written by John Wick for the Houses of the Blooded supplement Wilderness. I’m cited in the book as being the inspiration for this version, so it only seems proper I included it in my study.

Where have you gone,
My sweet-eyed daughter
Tell me where have you gone
You are barefoot and alone
Barefoot and alone
Singing a black tongue song
The trees they sing they sing to me
A song I cannot ignore
Th e darkness calls on my knees I fall
A song I have heard before
My love was killed by a broken man
And I am all alone
But the trees they sing they sing to me
I will be alone no more

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