This song about being abandoned by a lover goes way back. It was first documented in a 1909 compilation of songs by the Missouri Folklore Society, but had clearly been well established as a local favorite for years before that. The composer is unknown.
In early versions the narrator is a woman, but the genders been flipped plenty of times. She seems to be contemplating suicide, and wondering if the one who left her might think of her again once she’s buried under the weeping willow tree. Cheery stuff.
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow” was the first song The Carter Family performed for Ralph Peer on Aug. 1, 1927, at the Bristol Sessions, making it a pretty significant number in country music history. The Carter Family popularized the song, the Monroe Brothers also recorded it, and the 1980 version by Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice is about as sublime a guitar-mandolin duet as you’ll ever hear.
The song’s classic three-chord progression makes it an easy one for beginning musicians to pick up, and it sounds equally good played at moderate tempos, or slow and sweet like Skaggs & Rice. Plenty of fun to harmonize on the chorus as well.
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow” Lyrics and Chords
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Iconic: Skaggs & Rice
Old school: The Carter Family
Also good: Clarence White