“Sitting on Top of the World”—or “sittin'” if you prefer—is a staple of American roots music that’s been played in just about every style since it was first recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks in 1930.
Howlin’ Wolf’s 1957 blues version is perhaps the most well-known, but the song has been covered by Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Cream, and even Jack White for the Cold Mountain film soundtrack.
Because it began as a country blues number, you’ll often hear it played in a bluesy fingerstyle, but bluegrass versions abound and it finds its way into just about every bluegrass jam.
The song has been prone to evolution. You’ll probably notice some different chord changes between blues versions and bluegrass versions. The chords we provide below are the ones most commonly played in bluegrass. The signature change comes on the word “worry” near the end of each verse, when you drop to the minor 6th chord for two measures before finishing with a I-V-I-I turnaround.
The lyrics have also evolved. There’s no chorus. Instead, the same couplet closes out every verse and the opening couplet changes from verse to verse. As often happens with songs in this format, people having been injecting new couplets and lyrics from others songs into it for many decades.
We’ve included a lot of these verses below, but by no means do you have to memorize all of them. We put the most common ones near the top.
Be warned: Blues versions of this song can be slow and plodding, but bluegrass versions often crank up the tempo to top speed.
“Sitting On Top Of The World” lyrics and chords
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