Black is the Color

(1921)
"Black is the Color" is a traditional Appalachian folk song of Scottish origin. The original tune of "Black is the Color" was collected by English composer and folk song archivist Cecil Sharp. The tune that is best known today is that assigned to the traditional lyrics by John Jacob Niles. He describes how he came about to write this tune:


"'Black is The Color of My True Love's Hair'...was composed between 1916 and 1921. I had come home from eastern Kentucky, singing this song to an entirely different tune--a tune not unlike the public-domain material employed even today. My father liked the lyrics, but thought the tune was downright terrible. So I wrote myself a new tune, ending it in a nice modal manner. My composition has since been 'discovered' by many an aspiring folk-singer."


A setting of Niles' has been included in George Crumb's Unto the Hills: American Songbook III as well as Italian composer Luciano Berio's Folk Songs.

Black is the Color
Traditional Anglo-American

Black is the color of my true love's hair,
Her lips are something rosy fair.
The prettiest face and the daintiest hands,
I love the grass whereon she stands.

I love my love, and well she knows,
I love the grass whereon she goes.
If she on earth no more I see,
My life will quickly heed ye.

I'll go to troublesome to mourn, to weep,
But satisfied, I ne'er shall sleep.
I'll write her a note in a few little lines,
And suffer death ten thousand times.

Black is the color of my true love's hair,
Her lips are something rosy fair.
The prettiest face and the daintiest hands,
I love the grass whereon she stands.

  Hampsong / Foundation This website has been made possible by generous support of the Hampsong Foundation.

Audio PLaylist

CD / DVD / MP3

Books