Michael Row the Boat Ashore

TITLE: Michael Row the Boat Ashore
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: traditional, public domain
KEYWORDS: religious, nonballad, travel, river, ship, work, worksong, floatingverses, shanty
EARLIEST DATE: 1867 (Allen, Ware, Garrison)
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
Seeger dates this Georgia sea islands worksong from the mid-19th century.

gullah-boy-in-boatMichael, Row the Boat Ashore (is an African-American spiritual and was first published in Slave Songs of the United States, by Allen, Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison, in 1867). In 1867 it was known as a work song, or more specifically, a rowing song, although it probably originated as a spiritual.

In the book mentioned above the author notes “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” was described by workers as especially popular when “the load was heavy or the tide was against us.” 

The lyrics and melody were forgotten for almost 100 years but in 1954, according to one report, Tony Saletan ran across a copy of Slave Songs of the United States in the Widener Library at Harvard University. He later taught the song to Pete Seeger who performed it with the Weavers. It later became a #1 song when sung by The Highwaymen in 1960.

RECORDINGS:

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
BONUS AUDIO: Stephen Griffith and Friends (Studio Session) download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO:The New Christy Minstrels

Michael Row the Boat Ashore

Michael row the boat ashore,
Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore,
Hallelujah

My brothers and sisters are all aboard,
Hallelujah
My brothers and sisters are all aboard,
Hallelujah

The river is deep and the river is wide,
Hallelujah
Milk and honey on the other side,
Hallelujah

Jordan’s river is chilly and cold,
Hallelujah
Chills the body but warms the soul,
Hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore,
Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore,
Hallelujah

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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