Song of The Day: The Byrds – John Riley

Happy birthday to Roger McGuinn! The Byrds take on this traditional English Folk Ballad, an Odyssean tale of a love long lost at sea, and the woman who awaits his return, is one of the high points of American Folk Rock. Lyrically this song crushes me, with it’s tale of unending romantic fidelity. Musically, the repeating eastern motif of a riff that, much like the lyrical content, wanders only to return, lays the foundation¬†for a beautifully pining string arrangement by Allen Stanton and the heavenly, multi-tracked, harmonies. This song always gives me chills.

A fair young maid all in her garden,
A strange young man comes passing by
Saying fair maid, will you marry me
And this answer was her reply

No kind sir, I cannot marry thee
For I’ve a love who sails all on the sea
He’s been gone for seven years
But still no man will I marry

Well what if he’s in some battle slain
Or drowned in the deep salt sea
Or what if he’s found another love
And he and his love both married be?

If he’s in some battle slain
I will die, when the moon doth wane
And if he’s drowned in the deep salt sea
I’ll be true to his memory

And if he’s found another love
And he and his love both married be
Then I wish them health and happiness
Where they now dwell across the sea

He picked her up all in his arms
And kisses gave her one two and three
Saying weep no more my own true love
I am your long lost John Riley.

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