Sari Schorr has released her version of the 1870s folk-blues classic Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, along with a haunting black and white video, which you can watch below.
Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, also known as In The Pines, is believed to date back to the 1870s, with the first recorded version made by banjo player Dock Walsh in 1926. The most well-known versions were recorded by American bluegrass musician Bill Monroe (1941) and the iconic folk and blues singer, Lead Belly (1944).
Nirvana played the song on the 1994 MTV show, theirs based on Lead Belly’s version.
Tragic tale of murder
The song is based on a tragic tale of murder, after a man believes his woman has been cheating on him. “Lead Belly’s version of the song is deceptively profound,” Sari told MetalTalk. “To breathe new life into it, I reharmonized the chord progression to dramatically alter the mood and build tension to change the way people would hear the song.
“Moving away from the customary choice of acoustic guitar to feature a grand piano instead provided the perfect backdrop for the intensity of the lyrics.
“I’ve been performing songs from Lead Belly around the world for years, from Carnegie Hall to The Montreux Jazz Festival. It’s a great honour to share music from such an influential artist with a whole new audience.”
In Lead Belly’s versions, the song sometimes begins with “My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me / Tell me, where did you sleep last night?” and in others, “Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me / Tell me, where did you sleep last night?”
Sari opts for the latter, significantly moving the focus, scope, and theme of the song. Emphasis moves away from infidelity and jealousy. Race now takes centre stage, as do the risks of race, via the black girl’s life and experience as a single mother raising her child alone only to witness her son being shot down by a policeman.