Rock-a My Soul

TITLE: Rock-a My Soul
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: religious
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1867, Slave Songs of the United States, William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison

Pete SeegerI’d always liked what they called Negro spirituals and I sang ‘em for the fun of it, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” or “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” or “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.”

I’ve often felt that some of these songs may have gotten European melodies, but all of them have African treatment. 

For example, it might have been a slave looking through the window at a dance in the big white house, and the fiddler is playing “The Irish Washerwoman” on the fiddle [sings tune]. Out in the cotton fields the next day the slave is in the field is singing “Rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham, rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham.” Obviously just a slowed down different rhythm, but it was basically “The Irish Washerwoman” tune. (Pete Seeger, Read more at BeliefNet)

It is interesting to note that the version they shoved down our throats as children ran “Rock-a my soul,” which sounded like someone rocking on a rocking chair or in a cradle. But Slave Songs of the United States give it as “Rock o’ my soul” — i.e. “Rock of my soul.” This, as a reference to God, is more Biblical and much more comprehensible (from the Traditional Ballad Index)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Rock ‘o My Soul
  • Rock My Soul

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
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PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Rock-a My Soul

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

Storms of life, raging high
Sometimes I love, sometimes I doubt
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Sometimes I level to the ground

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

So high you can’t get over it,
so low you can’t get under it,
so wide, you can’t get round of it,
gotta get in through the door.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

Too high, can’t get over it,
Too high, can’t get over it,
Too high, can’t get over it,
gotta get in through the door.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul. 

Too wide, can’t get round it
Too wide, can’t get round it
Too wide, can’t get round it
gotta get in through the door.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

Too deep, can’t get under it
Too deep, can’t get under it
Too deep, can’t get under it
gotta get in through the door.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

Too high, can’t get over it
Too wide, can’t get round it
Too deep, can’t get under it
gotta get in through the door.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

Storms of life, raging high
Sometimes I love, sometimes I doubt
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Sometimes I level to the ground

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
oh, rock a my soul.

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
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon, Storyville Publications and Company, London Revised 1969.

SONGBOOKS:

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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