Although we lost bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley on June 23, his performance of “Man of Constant Sorrow” at the Grand Ole Opry will live on forever.
Stanley performed the song at the Opry in 2001, still sounding just as amazing as he did when he started his music career in the ’40s as one-half of The Stanley Brothers. In 1966, he decided to continue creating music after his brother and bandmate, Carter, passed away. Ralph chose to continue his music career with The Clinch Mountain Boys — The Stanley Brothers’ backing band.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” is an old folk song that has carried on since 1913 and been remade many times by different artists. The song was originally titled “Farewell Song” and sung by Dick Burnett. Before his death, Burnett couldn’t recall if he wrote the song originally or got it from someone else, so 1913 is as far back as we know the song goes.
The Stanley Brothers recorded the song in the 1950s and many others did the same. In the ’60s, Bob Dylan sang it, and in 2000 the song was redone and featured in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou. This rendition, part of the film’s successful soundtrack, won a Grammy in 2002.
We’re thankful that we have amazing performances like this to watch and remember Ralph Stanley by.