#1182: Freight Train by The Canadian Sweethearts
Peak Month: August 1963
6 weeks on CFUN chart
Peak Position #17
CFUN Twin Pick August 3, 1963
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
“Freight Train” is an American folk song written by Elizabeth Cotten in the early 20th century, and popularized during the American folk revival and British skiffle period of the 1950s and 1960s. Born in 1895, Cotten told the BBC in a 1985 interview that she wrote “Freight Train” sometime between the age of eleven and seventeen. The inspiration for writing the song was the sound of the trains rolling by on the nearby tracks across from her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Though she wrote the song, for decades poverty required that she work as a maid and caretaker and put aside any thought about being a musical performer. It was only when she was in her mid-60’s that she began to play and sing for audiences during the folk revival in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Possessing an idiosyncratic fingering approach, Cotten influenced many acoustic guitar players in folk and pop music. If not for luck, Cotten would probably have never been discovered.