1917 soundtrack: What is the 'Wayfaring Stranger' song in the woods?

29 January 2020, 13:56 | Updated: 29 January 2020, 14:01

By Tom Eames

1917 is undoubtedly one of the greatest war movies for decades, if not of all time.

The Sam Mendes-directed film takes place during World War I, and follows two young British soldiers who are given a mission to deliver a message warning of an ambush that would save thousands of lives.

The film has been universally praised by critics and fans for its performances, cinematography and realism, but one aspect that is truly astonishing is its music.

Thomas Newman once again worked with Sam Mendes on the film, providing the dramatic and beautiful score, which has been nominated for an Oscar.

But there was one moment that no doubt sent shivers across your body when you saw it. As Lance Corporal Will Schofield finally reached the 2nd Batallion in the woods, he sees hundreds of soldiers watching quietly while one member sings a beautiful folk song, longing for home.

It is a truly beautiful and stunning moment, as the realisation of everything Schofield has been through hits him as he finally has a moment to stop, while the rest of the soldiers have no idea what might happen next in the war.

But what is the song that is heard?

  1. What is the song performed by the soldier in the woods?

    Picture: Universal

    The song is titled 'The Wayfaring Stranger' or 'Poor Wayfaring Stranger'.

    It is a famous American folk and gospel song, which most likely originated in the early 19th century. It is number 3339 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

    The song is about a plaintive person on some kind of journey through life, and was perfectly used in the context of World War I.

  2. Who sings it in the film?

    In 1917, 'Poor Wayfaring Stranger' is performed as live by singer and actor Jos Slovick.

    Jos has appeared in many West End productions, including the original London productions of Brief Encounter, Spring Awakening, Soho Cinders and Once the Musical.

    He also appeared as Bossuet in the 2012 movie version of Les Misérables.

  3. Is there a studio version?

    Frustratingly, no!

    The 1917 soundtrack album by Thomas Newman does not include the song, and there is currently no official version out there other than recordings from the film itself.

    Fans are so hopeful of a full version, that they have even launched a petition for Sam Mendes to record one with Jos.

    The closest version we could find, is another stunning cover by vocal group Narrow Way:

  4. Who else has sung it?

    American singer Burl Ives made it one of his signature songs, and included it on his 1944 album The Wayfaring Stranger.

    Emmylou Harris covered the song on her 1980 album Roses in the Snow. Her version reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

    Johnny Cash covered the song in his 2000 album American III: Solitary Man.

    There are also versions by Eva Cassidy, Jack White, Jamie Woon and Eliza Carthy.

  5. What are the lyrics?

    There are many different versions of the song, but the lyrics of some of the more famous versions are:

    I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
    Traveling through this world below
    There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
    In that bright land to which I go

    I'm going there to see my Father
    And all my loved ones who've gone on
    I'm just going over Jordan
    I'm just going over home

    I know dark clouds will gather 'round me
    I know my way is hard and steep
    But beauteous fields arise before me
    Where God's redeemed, their vigils keep

    I'm going there to see my Mother
    She said she'd meet me when I come
    So, I'm just going over Jordan
    I'm just going over home
    I'm just going over Jordan
    I'm just going over home