FOUR STRONG WINDS
“Four Strong Winds” is a song written by Ian Tyson in the early 1960s. It was first
recorded by The Brothers Four in a version that “Bubbled Under” the Billboard Hot 100
in October 1963. Subsequently, it was recorded by Ian and Sylvia on an album of the
same name released in 1964. The song is based on the life of transient farm workers,
forced to move where work can be found, but its theme is the sometimes temporary
nature of human relationships.
This folk classic has been recorded by many artists including Neil Young on his 1978
album Comes a Time (Young also performed the song with The Band at the famous The
Last Waltz concert, and in his 2005 documentary Neil Young: Heart of Gold), Sarah
McLachlan, Hank Snow, The Seekers, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, The Searchers, Teenage
Fanclub, John Denver, Bobby Bare, The Brothers Four (in an album by the same name),
The Kingston Trio, Waylon Jennings, Chad and Jeremy, Ulf Lundell, The Tragically Hip,
Joan Baez, and most recently, Johnny Cash. It was a hit by Bobby Bare in 1964. It was
also a big hit in Norway in 1966 in a Norwegian version: “Mot ukjent sted” by The
Vanguards and a big hit in Sweden in 1967 in a Swedish version: “Mot okänt land”
recorded by The Hep Stars.
The song is also referenced in “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. The narrator
remembers how the main character, Owen, loved to hear that song as sung by the
character of Hester.
The mentioning of Alberta in the lyrics led it to be considered in a contest to choose a
provincial song, which it did not win. Additionally, the song is sung on the last night of
the Edmonton Folk Music Festival each year.
Think I’ll go out to Alberta,
Weather’s good there in the fall.
I got some friends that I can go to working for,
Still I wish you’d change your mind
If I asked you one more time,
But we’ve been through that a hundred times or more.
Four strong winds that blow lonely,
Seven seas that run high,
All those things that don’t change, Come what may.
but our good times are all gone,
And I’m bound for moving on.
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way.
If I get there before the snow flies,
And if things are going good,
You could meet me if I send you down the fare.
But by then it would be winter
there ain’t much for you to do