Comes from an old hymn, first published in 1899 as Motherless Child. Always popular with street musicians. Sentimentality sells. Edward H. Boatner (NO 1898 - NY 1981) was a black composer who wrote many popular concert arrangements of negro spirituals. Reissued on Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922 (ARCH).
Paul Robeson [popularised it almost singlehandedly, with Lawrence Brown on piano]
Sarah Vaughan [with lines borrowed from gospel blues Motherless Children Have A Hard Time (see there)]
Felix Dukes [with Fred McDowell on guitar]
Odetta [At Carnegy Hall and in Pasolini film Il Vangelo Secundo Matteo]
Richie Havens [in Freedom at Woodstock]
Boney M [as Motherless Child]
Van Morrison [with lines borrowed from gospel blues Motherless Children Have A Hard Time (see there)]
Crime & The City Solution [as Motherless Child]
Henry Qualls [idem]
Tom Jones [with Portishead]
Alvin Youngblood Hart [as Motherless Child]
Also by Ethel Waters, Fats Waller, Artie Shaw, Jo Stafford, Barbara Hendricks, Julie London, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Witherspoon and Nana Mouskouri, all as Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child. Not to be confused with Motherless Children Have A Hard Time (see there).