the song
title : John Anderson, my Jo
written by : Robert Burns / traditional
song copyright : none

the performance
Eddi Reader solo vocal
key : modal (dorian on D)
time-signature : 4/4
tempo : MM approx. 68
form : V V

John Anderson my jo

John Anderson my jo, John,
  When we were first acquent;
Your locks were like the raven,
  Your bony brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
  Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
  John Anderson my Jo.

John Anderson my jo, John,
  We clamb the hill the gither;
And mony a canty day, John,
  We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
  And hand in hand we’ll go;
And sleep the gither at the foot,
  John Anderson my Jo.

source : No. 302 in Poems and songs of Robert Burns / edited by James Kinsley. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1968

acquentacquainted josweetheart
ane anitherone another maunmust
beldbald monysmany is
boniebonny, fair powhead
brentsmooth snawsnow
cantielively, cheerful thegithertogether

This text was originally published in the 1790 volume of ‘The Scots musical museum’ (editor James Johnson). Burns re-wrote a quite explicit reproach for a husband’s lost sexual powers, probably dating from the early eighteenth-century, into a gentle affirmation of fidelity until death. What wouldn’t we give to hear Eddi sing the earlier version, as given in The merry muses of Caledonia published in 1799-1800 :

John Anderson, my jo, John,
  I wonder what ye mean,
To lie sae lang i’ the mornin,
  And sit sae late at een?
Ye’ll bleer a’ your een, john,
  And why do ye so?
Come sooner to your bed at een,
  John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
  When first that ye began,
Ye had as good a tail-tree
  As ony ither man;
But now its waxen wan, John,
  And wrinkles to and fro;
I’ve twa gea-ups for ae gae-down,
  John Anderson, my jo.

According to Brewer’s Dictionary of phrase and fable (mine is the 2nd rev. ed, 1981) “jo” is an old Scottish word for a sweetheart – which explains why it has a lower-case initial letter.

the recording
produced by : Eddi Reader and Teddy Borowiecki
recorded by : Teddy Borowiecki in Eddi’s house and garden, Battersea, London, 1996-06
mixed by : Teddy Borowiecki [one of the more difficult mixes this!]
mastered by : Tim Young at Metropolis
track timing : 1:05
song timing : m:ss
released on
single : Medicine CD 2 track 2

1996 was the 200th anniversary of Robert Burns death; for other songs by Robert Burns recorded by Eddi early in her career see ‘Green grow the rashes’ and ‘Ay fond kiss’ (a Fairground Attraction track); she recorded a new version of this song, with orchestral accompaniment, as part of her Burns project and it was released on her …sings the songs of Robert Burns album in 2003