'Another Man Done Gone' - a powerful tale of woe on a chain gang

Apr 19, 2013

Repression of African Americans didn’t stop at the end of the Civil War, and prisons and chain gangs were full of black people arrested for minor violations. This song, “Another Man Done Gone”, tells of the death of a man on one of those chain gangs.

Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Vera Hall singing “Another Man Done Gone” in 1940, and praised her as having the "loveliest untrained voice [he] had ever recorded."

She sang spirituals and folk songs as well as blues, and is one of the prominent singers from the Depression-era South. Her songs have been performed by Johnny Cash and John Mayall, and her song “Trouble So Hard” was integral to techno-artist Moby’s 1999 multi-platinum single “Natural Blues”.

Her unaccompanied vocal recording of “Another Man Done Gone” is haunting and unforgettable.

New Orleans soul singer Irma Thomas recreated “Another Man Done Gone” on her 2006 cd After The Rain, adding verses related to the destruction in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina.

Harmonica ace Sugar Blue recorded the song in 2006 with just voice voice, harp and drums as a fast paced, acoustic boogie. In live shows, he stretches out a bit more, as in this 2010 video clip:

New York based blues-rocker Michael Powers maintained the mournful quality of the original on his 2004 recording of “Another Man Done”, creating a thickly textured weave of guitars.

Here are the complete versions of “Another Man Done Gone”:

Vera Ward Hall  “Another Man Done Gone” 1940

Irma Thomas “Another Man Done Gone”  2006

Sugar Blue “Another Man Done Gone” 2006

Michael Powers “Another Man Done” 2004