Red River Valley

A folk song and cowboy music standard of controversial origins that has gone by different names.

Published: Oct 1, 2011 Updated: Oct 19, 2017

ukulele leadsheet | Subjects: repertoirebeginnerfolk

View the Download section of this page to download the song files for the complete and most up-to-date versions.

Red River Valley is a folk song and cowboy music standard of controversial origins that has gone by different names—e.g., "Cowboy Love Song", "Bright Sherman Valley", "Bright Laurel Valley", "In the Bright Mohawk Valley", and "Bright Little Valley"— depending on where it has been sung.

Edith Fowke offers anecdotal evidence that the song was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896. This finding led to speculation that the song was composed at the time of the Wolseley Expedition to the northern Red River Valley of 1870 in Manitoba. It expresses the sorrow of a local woman (possibly a Métis) as her soldier lover prepares to return to the east.

The earliest known written manuscript of the lyrics, titled The Red River Valley, bears the notations "Nemaha 1879" and "Harlan 1885." Nemaha and Harlan are the names of counties in Nebraska, and are also the names of towns in Iowa.

The song appears in sheet music, titled In the Bright Mohawk Valley, printed in New York in 1896 with James J. Kerrigan as the writer. The tune and lyrics were collected and published in Carl Sandburg's 1927 American Songbag.

Common Keys: G
First Melodic Interval: P5 ↑ P4 ( starts on the perfect fight of the key and the next melody more if up a perfect fourth. In the key of G major this would be: D to G )

Web Resources

Main Song Download(s)

The main downloads for this Song.

Red River Valley - Chord Lead Sheet, Key of G

Chords and melody for a C tuned Ukulele. Standard music notation and TAB.

Song Road Map

Tips and tricks for remembering a song.

A Road Map Through Song

Remembering songs is all about the form and harmonic content and movement with taking in the similarities between songs. And, just like a road map they're landmarks that will trigger memories of how to get through various sections, changes or parts of a song.

This section of a song's page presents some tips on how I try and remember a particular song.

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