Old Black Joe

Parlor song
First recorded in 1860
Words by the American songwriter Stephen Foster

First verse:
Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

Old Black Joe (full accompaniment)

Old Black Joe guitar tab and notes (pdf)

tabs tabs & notes


Old Black Joe instrumental guitar (mp3)

Old Black Joe - guitar tab, notes, chords and lyrics

"Old Black Joe" is a song by Stephen Foster, known for "Oh! Susanna", "Swanee River" and "Beautiful Dreamer". The song have been recorded by many famous artists including Bing Crosby and Al Jolson.

The music transcriptions of the song with tabs and notes are available for download as PDFs. It's free for personal use only.

Old Black Joe (full accompaniment)

"Old Black Joe" for guitar with full accompaniment. Free download in pdf-file and audio.

Old Black Joe guitar accompaniment

Old Black Joe (only melody)

"Old Black Joe" tablature notation for guitar.

Old Black Joe notes and tabs

Tips on how to learn this song

Notice the structure in this 12-bar long piece: the 1, 3 and 5 bars are identical. Also, the 12-bar 1-2 and 5-6 bars as well as 6-7 and 10-11 are identical sequences. It will also be helpful to know that it is no shift of key and that the song only uses notes from the same major scale throughout the song.

The perhaps most challenging element is the variety in tempo. Half notes, quarter notes, eight notes and sixteenth notes are used including dotted notes. Thus, it can be helpful to consult the versions which include musical notation to better interpret the tempo.

Lyrics and chords

Old Black Joe in the key of A
(A)Gone are the days when my (D)heart was young and (A)gay,
Gone are my friends from the (D)cotton fields a(E)way,
(A)Gone from the earth to a (D)better land I (A)know,
I (E)hear their gentle (D)voices calling (A)"Old (E)Black (A)Joe".

I'm (A)coming, I'm coming, for my (D)head is bending (A)low;
I (E)hear those gentle (D)voices calling (A)"Old (E)Black (A)Joe".

Verse 2:
Why do I weep when my heart should feel no pain?
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again,
Grieving for forms now departed long ago?
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

I'm (A)coming, I'm coming, for my (D)head is bending (A)low;
I (E)hear those gentle (D)voices calling (A)"Old (E)Black (A)Joe".

Verse 3:
Where are the hearts once so happy and so free?
The children so dear that I held upon my knee,
Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go.
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

I'm (A)coming, I'm coming, for my (D)head is bending (A)low;
I (E)hear those gentle (D)voices calling (A)"Old (E)Black (A)Joe".

Three chords only are included in the version above, the I, IV and V chords. Almost every line ends with the I chord (A major). There is also an option to play the V chord as dominant, E7 instead of E, that is.

There are possibilities to change to key by using a capo. These are the keys that the song would transpose in depending on which fret the capo is put:

Key, time, tuning and tempo

Information about "Old Black Joe" considering musical key, time signature, tuning and bpm.

Key signature music symbol


The main presented version of Old Black Joe is played in the key of C.

Time signature music symbol

Time signature

The song is played in 4/4 tempo (counted one, two, three, four for each measure)

Tuning overview


The song is normally played in standard tuning (EADGBE).

BPM symbol and numbers

Tempo (BPM)

The tempo in beats per minute is 70 for the presented version.

Tags: Spiritual