"Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Lead Belly cover)" as written by and Huddie Ledbetter....
My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I'm going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

Her husband, was a hard working man
Just about a mile from here
His head was found in a driving wheel
But his body never was found

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I'm going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I'm going where the cold wind blows

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through


Lyrics submitted by bonj, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" as written by Huddie Ledbetter

Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

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Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Lead Belly cover) song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentI'm not sure it matters, the why and the what of Kurt's performance of this song. We all agree it's incredible, haunting, the most amazing performance we've ever witnessed. The synergy of the conversation beforehand, Leadbelly being his favorite performer, the $500,000 for the guitar, all of that, then followed by a performance that eclipsed Leadbelly as a performer, and in some way brought Kurt's guitars up to the millions they sell for now. It all comes together in a way that is just fucking moving.

    I don't know if Kurt intended any personal meaning to the song. Maybe it was a blast at Courtney. Maybe it entails all of his depression and suicidal thoughts, to say as the first line of his goodbye note, the "experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee." But maybe, and this is what I think most, and for his sake I hope it's true, maybe for his final performance for the world (whether he committed suicide, or just intended to walk away and was murdered for it, I think he knew this was his farewell) he just wanted to play a song he loved the best from a musician who was his "favorite performer." He said himself afterward that he could never top it. I think from the perspective of a musician that's the power of the song and the performance. I have no musical ability, but an intense love for it. The look, the moment when his eyes open was overwhelming when I saw it first, also the first I'd heard the song. I think I'd most have to call that look freedom and love. Love of music, and freedom, the feeling, the total deep down inner emotion more powerful than any other that he and so many others find in music. His goodbye note talks of how it wasn't the crowd he loved. There is no doubt though that he loved music as much as any man ever has. You don't get to be that good, you don't have that emotion in your songs without an absolute love of it. He lost that love at the end, but I'm all but certain that instant his eyes open he's feeling again the freedom in music that had been absent as his life spiraled out of control. I think having lost that feeling is what caused the spiral. I don't know. I can't know. To know the mind of that great a man must require an equal mind, and I'm not sure such a thing has ever existed.

    No, the why and the what of this song don't carry any meaning at all, at least not any that can compare to the meaning of a man capable of such amazing performance and such raw emotion. That's what makes us all shiver.
    spartacus51on June 22, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI swear this song gets better every time I hear it. It is AMAZING. Kurt's voice is just so incredibly raw and heartfelt - it's like he's bleeding inside and you can hear it in every sound he makes. When he pauses near the end after the word "shiver" I actually do shiver, every time. He was incredible.
    MisSpiFFanyon May 01, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA driving wheel is a) a gear wheel that causes other wheels to rotate and b) Any wheel of a vehicle that transforms torque into a tractive force.
    Destriaon July 21, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNo, its about a girl that killed her husband you fucking dumbass. Listen to the words!

    I think this song is so powerful, he has an amazing voice. Oh, can anyone play the guitar part like kurt? I watched the video and I don't know how he does it.
    NoseDragonon June 26, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwow...
    i got chills the very first time i heard it! If you've ever seen or heard Nirvana Unplugged you'll know what I'm talkin' about. It's amazing how Kurt's voice has that much impact.I don't know what the song means. It's hard when you blowing away by his tremdous voice! R.I.P Kurt Donald Cobain KDC forever!
    creed_rocks13on July 05, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's possible I'm being melodramatic and reading far too much into this, but I believe that at the time this was recorded Kurt had already made up his mind he would be ending his life sometime soon. I believe that it's quite possible he understood how powerful this unplugged record would be and that he had designated it as both his and the band's last big hurrah. You can tell that Kurt pours his entire being into this performance and like someone said earlier, nearly all the songs have to do with death and despair. He had talked about going out in a blaze of glory while he was on top his entire life. The last line in the song, where he pauses, it almost feels like a sigh of relief that it will all soon be over.

    I believe that Kurt Cobain was one of the most fascinating and talented storytellers of his time, especially for the many of us who've had less-than-perfect childhoods and struggle to find that sense of self-worth that a divorce will steal from you as a child. He didn't tell stories to your mind, he told stories to your heart. I believe that he was consumed by emotions that not many people understand and I think that was part of his frustration. I think that he sang intensely personal songs that people interpreted as songs about sex and drugs and all kinds of crap. I think that he was a very simple, almost child-like, man who just wanted to be surrounded by all things beautiful and gentle.

    To this day, over ten years after his death, I still get misty-eyed thinking about what he was...and what he could have been.
    spotchesteron January 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI loved your comments Spartacus. I think you have great insights into Kurt Cobain. I am a music lover as well but did not follow Nirvana while they were together. I saw the MTV unplugged session about a year ago & was absolutely blown away by Cobain's performance of this song. I can't think of another single performance that was so passionate & an obvious message to the world as to how depressed he was. It's too bad that no one was there for him to help him out of it. I play this song on my iPod whenever I'm feeling a little down to remind me that I'm not the only one feeling pain. Ironically, hearing that final, gut-wrenching stanza is somehow cathartic for me. I think you are on the money about Kurt wanting this to be his final song. How could you follow that!

    As far as interpretation, the song is generally about a man questioning his wife as to where she spent the night. She replies metaphorically that she was "in the pines, where the sun never shines, shivering the whole night through". She is telling him that she wasn't getting the love that she needed from him. The implication is that she is trying to find it with another man. Kurt's version of the song includes only one stanza, the one describing where the head of the woman's husband was found. The driving wheel is the part of a train that turns the wheels. I can only guess that the woman's lover killed her husband, cut his head off & put it on a train hoping that the body, if found, wouldn't be identified (remember that this song predates DNA & maybe even fingerprinting! I think this is a "traditional" song that no one knows who wrote & when & that Leadbelly was covering it also!).
    BadExampleon December 31, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's a guy singing about his girl cheating on him.
    The 1st verse is him accusing her of the cheating "last night" when she didn't come home.
    The 2nd verse is him leaving her, which is lonely, cold and dark. Like being alone in a forest is how he feels. Maybe it's a "pine" forest because he'll be pining (adj. for yearning, suffering)?
    And the 3rd verse that's only said once is the guy's obituary from third person. A "hard working man," we are sympathetic with him when he's cheated on, and he apparently drives off and kills himself in a wreck. This is probably a sarcastic remark you might make after breaking up with someone, like "bye, screw you, I'm gonna go drive off a bridge!".
    To me, this song has a different meaning than the original folk version, having different lyrics. Probably why Kurt chose it as it must have spoken to him more.
    cwzaggeron December 17, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is powerful and Kurt covers it so well it's overwhelming. it seems relatively easy to understand but i'm not sure i completely grasp it.
    FROST17on February 09, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEasily THE most intense live performance of a song I've ever seen or heard. Just incredible. I still get chills when I listen to this song.
    cdconnon May 03, 2002   Link

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