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Recorded by Lead Belly in 1940, "Cotton Fields" was introduced into the canon of folk music via its inclusion on the 1954 album release Odetta & Larry which comprised performances by Odetta at the Tin Angel nightclub in San Francisco with instrumental and vocal accompaniment by Lawrence Mohr: this version was entitled "Old Cotton Fields at Home". The song's profile was boosted via its recording by Harry Belafonte first on his 1958 album Belafonte Sings the Blues with a live version appearing on the 1959 concert album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall: Belafonte had learned "Cotton Fields" from Odetta and been singing it in concert as early as 1955. A #13 hit in 1961 for The Highwaymen, "Cotton Fields" served as an album track for a number of C&W and folk-rock acts including Ferlin Husky (The Heart and Soul of Ferlin Husky 1963), Buck Owens (On the Bandstand 1963), the New Christy Minstrels (Chim-Chim-Cheree 1965) and the Seekers (Roving With The Seekers 1964): Odetta also made a new studio recording of the song for her 1963 album One Grain of Sand. The Springfields included "Cotton Fields" on a 1962 EP release: this version is featured on the CD On An Island Of Dreams: The Best Of The Springfields. "Cotton Fields" was also recorded by Unit 4+2 for their Concrete and Clay album (1965). A rendering in French: "L'enfant do", was recorded in 1962 by Hugues Aufray and Petula Clark.
The Beach Boys version
|File:Beach Boys - Cottonfields.jpg|
|Single by The Beach Boys|
|from the album 20/20|
|B-side||"The Nearest Faraway Place"|
|Released||April 20, 1970|
|Recorded||August 15, 1969 (single)|
2:21 (album version)|
3:05 (single version)
Brian Wilson and Al Jardine (album)|
The Beach Boys (single)
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
This page is a soft redirect.}
Dissatisfied with Brian Wilson's arrangement of the song, Jardine later led the group to record a more country-rock style version; this version recorded on August 15, 1969 featured Orville "Red" Rhodes on pedal steel guitar. Entitled "Cottonfields", the track afforded the Beach Boys' their most widespread international success while also consolidating the end of the group's hitmaking career in the US (although they would enjoy periodic comebacks there). "Cottonfields" would be the final Beach Boys' single released on Capitol Records - the group's label since May 1962 - and their last single released in mono.
While barely making a dent in the U.S. (#95 Record World, #103 Billboard) though promoted with an appearance on the network TV pop show Something Else, the song succeeded across the Atlantic, reaching number two in the UK's Melody Maker chart and listed as the tenth biggest seller of the year by the New Musical Express. Worldwide — outside North America — it virtually replicated the success of the group's "Do It Again" two years before. It was number 1 in Australia, South Africa, Sweden and Norway, number 2 in Denmark, number 3 in Ireland, similarly top 5 in the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain and Rhodesia; number 12 in the Netherlands, number 13 in New Zealand and number 29 in Germany. Because of this popularity, it was placed on the international (ex-US) release of the group's Sunflower album.
- Album: 20/20
- Time: 2 minutes 21 seconds (album version), 3 minutes 05 seconds (single version)
- Produced and Arranged by: Brian Wilson (album version)
- Produced by: The Beach Boys
- Arranged by: Al Jardine (single version)
- Al Jardine: Lead Vocals
- The single version of the song has mild distortion due to compression, especially during the drum fills, and sporadic skipping can be heard from 1:03 - 1:31 in the song. This is much more noticeable in the stereo mix of the song. In the mono mix of the song featured in Good Vibrations box set, the skipping is less audible and the song itself is in a slightly higher pitch than in this stereo version.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival on their (1969) album Willy and the Poor Boys. This version hit #1 in Mexico in 1970.
- Elvis Presley in the movie Elvis: That's the Way It Is.
- Esther Ofarim sang "Cottons Fields" live on television in 1969, with her then husband Abi Ofarim. They also recorded a German version, "Wenn ich bei Dir sein kann" in 1964.
- Harry Dean Stanton, in one scene of the film Cool Hand Luke, plays a sped-up version.
- Joe Dassin on 1989 Sony Music compilation Vol.2
- Johnny Cash on his album The Sound of Johnny Cash
- Johnny Mann Singers on the album Golden Folk Song Hits - Liberty LST-7253
- Eddy Arnold (with the Needmore Creek Singers) on the album "Folk Song Book"
- Several Mexican groups including Los Apson recorded a Spanish version titled "Cuando Era Un Jovencito" popular in the 1960s.
- The Carter Sisters on their album The Best of The Carter Family (1966).
- Rose Marie on episode 102 of The Dick van Dyke Show "The Alan Brady Show Goes to Jail" (1964).
- Donna Douglas on her album Back on the Mountain.
- The Pogues on their 1989 album Peace and Love (while this version references the original in its lyrics, the song itself is not a cover per se)
- Teresa Brewer on The Muppet Show
- Udo Jürgens a 1968 single.
- Webb Pierce on the 1966 Decca album Webb's Choice
- Marching band arrangement as popularised by Kansas State University Marching Band and the Texas Tech University Marching Band by Joel Leach.
- The Angels in 1963 that went to #119 in the U.S.
- Kitten on their album Yodeling Cowgirl in 2007
- Flatfoot 56 (a Celtic Oi! band) covered it on their album Toil, released in 2012.
- Tesla released a cover version as the B-side to the single Call It What You Want, released in 1991.
The original Lead Belly lyrics state that the fields are "down in Louisiana, just ten miles from Texarkana". Later versions (e.g., Creedence Clearwater Revival's) say the fields are "down in Louisiana, just about a mile from Texarkana". Both are geographically impossible, as Texarkana is about 30 miles north of the Louisiana border. This song line suggests the writer had the widely held mistaken belief that Texarkana is partially in Louisiana. While the meaning of the name is clear – a portmanteau of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, Texarkana is actually not on the Louisiana border, as surveyors were off by 30 miles, and is closer to Oklahoma than to Louisiana.
The song and its various cover versions became a synonyme of bluegrass music, as well far from actual cotton yielding regions. E.g. the German skiffle band Die Rhöner Säuwäntzt describe their style as Musik von den Baumwollfeldern der Rhön, translating into music played on the Rhön Mountains (imaginary) cotton fields.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 19 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 2]" (AUDIO). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.
- "MapQuest Maps - Driving Directions - Map". Mapquest.com. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
- see Bo kömmsten du hää? ; Wo kommst du denn her? (where you from?), Textbook, Die Rhöner Säuwäntzt, Lieder von den Baumwollfeldern der Rhön, 1995, ISBN 3931796086 ID: m37416m58671, Rhön Verlag 1995