Red River Valley
Western Music
The Lone Writer  

Western Song: Red River Valley

Red River Valley is one of the most notable popular folk songs. It is a standard of cowboy music of uncertain origins that has gone under various names. It ranked #10 on the Top 100 Western Songs of all time chosen by the members of The Western Writers of America.

The popularity of the song became widely known in America. The song is a Texas adaptation of a popular 1896 song, “In the Bright Mohawk Valley”. Later, research by Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke indicated that the song was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896. This discovery led to speculation that the song was composed during the 1870 Wolseley Expedition in Manitoba’s northern Red River Valley. The song evokes the grief of a local woman (possibly a Métis) as her soldier-lover prepares to return east.

In 1925, the song was first recorded as Cowboy Love Song by one of the first cowboy singers from Texas, Carl T. Sprague. The version recorded by Hugh Cross and Riley Puckett is the biggest hit of the cowboy version in 1927 and became the inspiration for many of the following recordings.

Popular Recordings

Like most traditional folk songs, many artists covered and recorded the song. The most popular recordings are done by the following artists:

  • Luther B. Clarke
  • Kelly Harrell
  • Carl T. Sprague
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Jules Verne Allen
  • Hugh Cross and Riley Puckett
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Gene Autry
  • Michael Martin Murphey
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Bing Crosby
  • Marty Robbins

Other Titles for Red River Valley

The song has gone by different names depending on where it has been sung. Here are the other titles for this song:

  • Cowboy Love Song
  • Bright Sherman Valley
  • Bright Laurel Valley
  • In the Bright Mohawk Valley
  • Bright Little Valley
  • Red River Valley

Film Appearance

The song has been sung and featured as well in the following movies:

  • Red River Valley
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Sweet Savage
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • Desperate Hours
  • Tombstone
  • A Prairie Home Companion
  • Hemingway & Gellhorn
  • Wild
  • Lucky

Listen (Gene Autry Version)

Red River Valley Lyrics

From this valley they say you are goin'
I will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are takin' the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway the while

Do you think of the valley you're leavin'
Oh how lonely and dreary it will be
Do you think of the fond heart you're breakin'
And the sadness you've cast over me

For a long time my dear, I've been waiting
For the words that you never would say
And alas my poor heart you are breakin'
For they tell me you're goin' away

As you go to your home by the ocean
May you never forget those sweet hours
That we spent in the Red River Valley
And the love we exchanged mid the flowers

Come and sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
But remember the Red River Valley
And the one that has loved you so true

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