SongNotes: Dear girl, sing on! Aunt Dottie & I Know Where I’m Going

In spring of 1984, my Aunt Dorothy wrote me this note in a birthday card. I was turning 26. She had just seen 84! She gave me her musical books and sheet music and notes, including “I Know Where I’m Going,” her signature song, and one I still sing with her in mind.

It’s a folk classic with a long history, claimed by the Scots and the Irish, with recorded versions by Burl Ives, Judy Collins, Odetta, and Appalachian renderings with lyric variations. She sang the version from the Herbert Hughes 1909 Irish Country Songs, which we studied in music school. I sing it here accompanied by Peter Swenson on guitar. My Mom, Winifred, edited the artwork on the original cassette J-card. I remastered it at WFMT in 2015.

Aunt Dottie with Cecilie, Dorothy, Gloria. Beth and Jamie (down right)
Dorothy O

Dottie’s letter to Jamie, May 1984

Jamie dear
You will never know how much you did for me with your beautiful letter and card I too appreciate the friendship we share: (speaking the same language, warming to the same music), sharing the things of the spirit you express so well in your singing. I look forward to June and Orchestra Hall. Knowing you will always sing is a light for me on what is left of the road ahead. I will say to you what a dear teacher said to me (when I graduated from high school). “Dear girl, sing on! The world is a better place because of you.“ My singing is finished. Yours is on the upgrade and soaring. Keep on! Remember I love you dearly, and thank you. Aunt Dot.

Hear “I know where I’m going” here:

I Know Where I’m Going

I know where I’m going
And I know who’s going with me
I know who I love
But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

I have stockings of silk
And shoes of fine green leather
Combs to buckle my hair
And a ring for every finger.

Some say he’s black*
But I say he’s bonnie
The fairest of them all
My handsome winsome Johnny.

Feather beds are soft
And painted rooms are bonny
But I would leave them all
To go with my love my Johnny.

I know where I’m going
And I know who’s going with me
I know who I love
But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

(*black refers to bad in this Irishism)