Black is the Colour

Mark Owen

A modern version of a traditional Scottish folk song in which a lonely singer stands on the banks of the River Clyde mourning the departure of her seafaring true love.


"Black Is the Colour (of My True Love's Hair)"  is a traditional folk song first known in the Appalachian Mountains region of the United States in 1915, but most probably originating from Scotland, as attributed to the reference to the Clyde in the song's lyrics. The musicologist Alan Lomax supported this Scottish origin, saying that the song was an American "re-make of British materials." The first recording was made by Mrs. Lizzie Roberts in 1916 as "Black Is The Colour".

Many different versions of this song exist, some addressed to females and others addressed to males, as well as other differences: some rosy fair... or a rose so fair...

...the prettiest face and the neatest hands... or ...the sweetest face and the gentlest hands...

...still I hope the time will come... or ...some times I whish the day will come... and I shall be as one... or ...s/he and I can be as one...

These words are set to two distinct melodies, one of which is traditional and the other was written by the Kentucky folk singer and composer John Jacob Niles. Niles recalled that his father thought the traditional melody was "downright terrible", so he wrote "a new tune, ending it in a nice modal manner." This melody was used in the Folk Songs song cycle by Luciano Berio.

While it is unclear which version should be considered "original", it is believed that the traditional song was addressed to a woman, with the male-addressed version made popular by Nina Simone in the middle of the 20th century.

Information from Wikipedia.


Verse One
I love my love and well he knows,
I love the ground, whereon he goes,
I wish the day, it soon would come,
When he and I could be as one.

Verse Two
I go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep,
For satisfied, I ne'er can be,
I write him a letter, just a few short lines,
And suffer death, a thousand times.

Black is the colour of my true love's hair,
His lips are like some roses fair,
He's the sweetest smile, And the gentlest hands,
I love the ground, whereon he stands.