Down on the Banks of the Ohio
By: traditional
Written by: traditional

Alternate Titles:

a.k.a. Banks of the Ohio

 
Lyrics:
Down on the Banks of the Ohio [Live version (a)]:

(From August 8 2002 version)

I asked my love to take a walk, just a little ways away
As we walked along, we talked all about our wedding day
Darling, say that you'll be mine and in our home we'll happy be
Down beside where the waters flow, down on the banks of the Ohio

I took her by her lily white hand, led her down and I made her stand
Pushed her in where she would drown, watched her as she floated down
Darling, say that you'll be mine, in our home we'll happy be
Down beside where the waters flow, down on the banks of the Ohio

Returning home between 12 and 1, thinking "Lord, what a deed I have done!"
Killed the girl I loved, you see, 'cause she would not marry me
Darling, say that you'll be mine and in our home we'll happy be
Down beside where the waters flow, down on the banks of the Ohio
Down on the banks of the Ohio
 
The Song:

Beck introduced his performance of this creepy murder ballad at the Harry Smith tribute concerts by saying, "There's some disturbing music in this collection, and this is one of them. I was going to memorize it, but I don't think I want it in my head." Thus, he used a lyric sheet during his performance. Accompanying him on the performance were folk singers Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Steve Earle on guitar.

This song is not on the original Smithsonian-Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, which was originally compiled by Harry Smith in 1952, but on a more recently compiled Volume 4. The version on the newer anthology is by the Blue Sky Boys, though the song has been covered by a lot of different country and folk musicians over the years. It is a chilling, graphic song about a man murdering a girl because she refuses to marry him. (See the song's wiki page here.)

Beck has in fact memorized the song, as he played it four times, the following year in August, 2002.
 
Live:

Played live 6 times:
Earliest known live version: April 25, 2001
Latest known live version: August 26, 2002

Beck also played the song a few times on his own tour in August 2002. Beck played banjo, while Smokey joined him on mandolin and back-up singing. It's gorgeous, haunting, dark. On August 16 2002, Beck tried to tune his banjo for this song, but couldn't get it right. (Smokey was laughing at him!) In the end, he gave up, and just sang while Smokey played mandolin.
 
Notes: