Happy Canada Day! On the day I am writing, that is. You know, for a small population nation, we can compete with anybody when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll and other popular music!
Four Strong Winds is a timeless Canadian song that was written by Ian Tyson in 1960. It was voted the most essential songs in English language Canadian pop music history in a 10 week poll by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2005 (top 50 list). I doubt it will ever leave that chart, whether or not it would hold on to top spot as time goes by.
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. That’s about as nice a summary as I could find. You listen to the song and read the lyrics in the great fan video below and see/hear for yourself. The song even has subtle horse hoof running sounds! Love it!!!
These tabs all fit on one page to avoid the inconvenience of page turns. However, the letter size tabs (8.5″ x 11″) may be too small for your eyes. If so, you can either enlarge to tabloid size (11″ x 17″) using an automatic enlarge feature on many photocopiers, or download the tabloid sized versions for printing. The tabloid size tabs can be inserted into a typical letter sized binder on the 11″ size, and folded almost in half to fit. You just open each tab to use it.
This song is very singable, in most people voice ranges without requiring a huge range. There are only a handful of chords, and easy ones at that. Nothing complicated about the strumming, either.
The arrangement I have chosen for the tabs include the tune as Neil Young sang it in the video above, without the guitar break. Note the fine differences between the last notes of the third and sixth lines of both verse and chorus. It’s a very fine difference, but that’s why I have included the notes in my tabs. You can pic out the notes to know what I had in mind to go with the chords listed rather than guess, as you often have to do with most online tabs. In some of those cases, there are actual errors people make in singing out of tune, then putting a wrong chord to it, but I’m not going to go further down that road.
However, I have left the verses and chorus in the order Ian Tyson originally wrote them. It starts out with the chorus, then verse, chorus, verse and ending with that beautiful chorus again. Ian and his wife Sylvia sing the song below. It’s a nice version, just a tad harder to tab and sing than Neil’s version with all the country style nuances.
Between the two videos and tune notes left on the tabs, I hope you’ll be able to figure it all out.
Oh, for the ukulele tabs, I left out the D7 transition chord compared to the guitar version. The ukulele D7 didn’t sound right without much of a bass set of notes.
Other notes about Four Strong Winds:
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, Marianne Faithfull, The Searchers, Teenage Fanclub, John Denver, Bobby Bare, The Brothers Four (in an album by the same name), The Kingston Trio, Trini Lopez, 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 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.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.4