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January 11

“Sitting on Top of the World”, an Original by Mississippi Sheiks

“Sitting on Top of the World” is a country blues song that Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon wrote. Vinson and Chatmon were the original members of the Mississippi Sheiks. In the year 1930, Mississippi Sheiks were the first to record “Sittin’ on Top of the World”. One morning, according to Walter, he composed the song after playing at a white dance in Greenwood, Mississippi. Since then, the track became a popular crossover hit for the band. As a result, in 2008, the song became an inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Here is a good version of or Sittin’ on Top of the World” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Live 48)

https://youtu.be/QtkYUFFqyjg

Through the years, “Sitting on Top of the World” has become a standard of traditional American music. Several artists have widely recorded the tune in a variety of different styles – folk, blues, country, bluegrass, rock. Often, the covers have great variations and/or additions to the original verses and lyrics. Originally, the lyrics of the song suggest a philosophic optimism in the face of emotional setbacks. In addition, several say that the song is a simple yet elegant distillation of blues.

To cite an example, Howlin’ Wolf recorded “Sittin’ on Top of the World” sometime 1957. When published, it was under his birth-name Chester Burnett. His version is well-known and widely used. This was Cream’s recorded version in 1968.

What is the difference? Howlin’ shortened the song to just three verses. The first and third verses are similar to the second and fifth verses of the Mississippi Sheiks’ song. The middle verse of Wolf’s version goes:

Worked all the summer, worked all the fall

Had to take Christmas, in my overalls

This was not a part of the 1930 original. However, it appeared in the recording made by Ray Charles in 1949.

Lastly, Willie Nelson also recorded “Sitting on Top of the World” from the 2009 Willie and the Wheel album.


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Bob Willis, sittin' on the top of the world


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