Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song) - Song Explanation

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

How many songs do we lose each day? A tune that will never hit the ear of another person again? A sad thing to imagine.

With over a million songs released every year, we are far from running out of music. Also we would never be able to listen to even a fraction of the songs that exist, but to know a song and never be able to pass it along? There is something about that that makes my heart hurt.

(Ok, we get it, you sad sap, get to it).

In 1909 a fella by the name of John Lomax (father of Alan) recorded this song. It was being sung by a woman washing her husband's clothes in a river. You can read all about it here.

When I heard that, it clicked with me. This song has been covered by so many players, and has been used in movies. It got a huge second wind (as did many folk tunes) with the movie Inside Llewyn Davis. That's why I never wanted to cover it. (I am an anti-mainstream grumpy purist at times).

I am picky about the songs I learn, since I love using my time to create my own. Writing is a big outlet for me, so why would I set that aside to "trace" someone else's song (a mentality I am realizing is a mistake and a loss of flexing new muscles)? However, when I read about how a song so beautiful could have only had an audience of dirty clothes and a brown river and then be lost? I had to learn it on principal alone. Since then, if a song touches me, or makes me think deeper than others (a close runner up was this beaut), I give it some attention.

Here is a version of this song I did with local artist and friend Gretchen Pleuss. The hunk with the upright is Brant Novak.

I tweaked the name of the river to make the song a little more personal, also I am working on some verses of my own to come soon. If you have any ideas, please share!


If I had wings like Noah's dove, I'd fly up the river to the one I love. Fare thee well, My Honey, fare thee well.

I had a woman, she was long and tall, Moves he body like a cannonball. Fare thee well, My Honey, fare thee well.

'Member one evening, in the pouring rain, In my heart was an aching pain. Fare thee well, My Honey, fare thee well.

Cuyahoga is muddy and wild

Can't give a bloody for my unborn child

Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

Give us a bird, flying high above

Life aint worth living, without the one you love

Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

I am partial to a version that Dave Van Ronk did. He mentioned in an interview how he was dealing with some mucus/flu symptoms before the recording session. He didn't want to cancel, so the session stood and he went into it sick. He felt that it messed with a "valve" and let him access a register of his singing voice that he didn't normally. I listened to this version a lot before I started tweaking a version for myself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=338hp19HWpE

I leave you with a challenge to find the songs that mean something to you and learn them. Learn the words, what it was written about and for, and pass it along however you see fit.

Music is a beautiful thing. Share it.

#folksongs #lomax #faretheewell #dinkssong #recording #bengagemusic #gagehousesessions #akron #livemusic


Ben Gage is a songwriter from Akron, OH.

You can find out more about him here.

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Songs, videos, and more can be found here.