TB and Piano
The earliest known mention of this song is an Englishman Samuel Pepys’s 1666 diary. The origin of the folk song is questionable, some attributing it to England, others to Scotland or Ireland. It traveled the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in the Appalachian mountains of America where legendary folk singers added new versions to the ever-growing collection; in 1960 the number of known version was documented at over 100. At least a dozen contemporary singers have since recorded their own special take on this piece, with both text and melody often altered to suit the style of the singer.
The folk tale of Bar’bry Allen is always pretty much the same, although her name gets various spellings, and her lover receives varied names, the most common being Sweet William. Along the way, the tune has been subject to much more variation than the story, suggesting it was easier to recall the story than the melody, or that folk singers simply liked to give the melody their own personal twist, or that the story got written down but not the tune.