Big Strong Man

"My Brother Sylvest'" also known as "Big Strong Man", is an American song, but often performed by English folk singers and Irish bands.

"My Brudda Syvest'"
LanguageEnglish (Italian-American dialect)
Songwriter(s)Jesse Lasky, Sam Stern and Fred Fisher


My Brudda Sylvest' was written in 1908, words by Jesse Lasky and Sam Stern, music by Fred Fisher.[1]

The song is written in an Italian-American dialect about the singer's eponymous brother, described in hyperbolic terms as a man of legendary strength capable of extraordinary feats. The original lyric has him blowing out a house fire, pushing the ocean away to allow him to walk to Italy, killing fifty thousand [native American] Indians, and drinking the ocean dry.

A 1955 version of the sheet music states that it is "sung by Sam Stern" and "Dedicated to my friend Sam Dody".[2]

Subsequent versions changed the references from the boxer John L. Sullivan to the "Jeffries-Johnson fight" of 1910, to American boxer Jack Dempsey, who started boxing in 1914, and even to John Conteh of Great Britain, who fought in the 1970s. Other changes have included the saving of the RMS Lusitania,[3] sunk during the first World War, and swimming from New York to Italy,[4] drinking all the water in the sea, playing every instrument in a brass band in a visit to Japan.

The song was popular with Canadian soldiers in World War II.[4]

My Brudda Sylvest' has been popular in the North of England, having been performed by Mike Harding, The Houghton Weavers, Fivepenny Piece, Gary and Vera Aspey, and other Lancashire folk singers. Lancashire comedians such as Little and Large have also performed it.

The song is also known as Big Strong Man, sung under that name by the Wolfe Tones.


Artists and groups who have recorded the song include:


  1. ^ MY BRUDDA SYLVEST'; Words by Jesse Lasky. Music by Fred Fischer; Fred Fischer Music Pub. Co., 1431-33 Broadway, 1908
  2. ^ Feldman's Old Time Variety Song Album No. 6, B.Feldman & Co., Ltd., London (1955)
  3. ^ "Big Strong Man (My Brother Sylveste)". Brobdingnagian Bards. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b Hopkins, Anthony (1979). Songs from the front and rear: Canadian servicemen's songs of the Second World War. Edmonton: Hurtig. ISBN 0888301723. OCLC 15905196.
  5. ^ Can be seen on Youtube