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Like many folk songs passed by oral tradition, the lyrics vary from version to version, but generally all contain the chorus "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song/It takes a worried man to sing a worried song/I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long."
The Carter Family recorded this song for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1930. The song was recorded by Woody Guthrie in 1940, and in the years that followed by his sometime singing partners Cisco Houston, Burl Ives, Ramblin' Jack Elliott (with Derroll Adams), and Pete Seeger. The song has been performed by many bluegrass, folk and country artists, including The Stanley Brothers, Osborne Brothers, George Jones, and even by Devo, Van Morrison, Elliott Murphy, and numerous others.