Tag Archives: religious

Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Gray)

TITLE: Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Grey) AUTHOR: Words: Beverly F. Carradine, Music: Unknown, possibly Dock Boggs CATEGORY: Public Domain, Author Known KEYWORDS: grief, punishment, resurrection, death, dying, Bible, religious, Jesus EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: © 1895, R. M. McIntosh Co., Charles M. Alexander, Owner. HISTORICAL REFERENCES: It would appear that this song generally follows read more »

Battle Hymn of the Republic

TITLE: Battle Hymn of the Republic AUTHOR: Words: Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), using the music from the song “John Brown’s Body” CATEGORY: Public Domain, Author Known KEYWORDS: religious, patriotic, war EARLIEST DATE: 1861 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The words to this piece were written by Julia Ward Howe in November 1861 after Howe watched a parade of Union troops. I went to read more »

Say Brothers Will You Meet Us?

TITLE:  Say Brothers Will You Meet Us? AUTHOR: The composer of the melody is unknown, later claimed by William Steffe. CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1852 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: This is the origin for one of America’s best loved tunes of the 1800’s. Probably the best known tune of the century. John Brown’s read more »

Mary Had a Baby

TITLE: Mary Had a Baby AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Christmas, childbirth, Jesus, religious EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1953 (R. C. Seeger, American Folk Songs for Christmas) Mary Had a Baby appears in Ruth Crawford Seeger’s “American Folk Songs for Children” (Doubleday 1948) and she cites as her source “Saint Helena Island Spirituals” by N.G.J. read more »

Away in a Manger

TITLE: Away in a Manger AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious, Jesus, animal, Christmas EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1885 (“Little Children’s Book: for Schools and Families”) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Away in a Manger is a purely American creation, although rumored to be written by Martin Luther. Most current publications of Away in a Manger indicate that the read more »

The Cherry Tree Carol

TITLE: The Cherry Tree Carol AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: carol, Jesus, religious EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1768 (Gilbert MS) In 1823, William Hone wrote “The admiration of my earliest days, for some lines in the Cherry carol still remains, nor can I help thinking that the reader will see somewhat of the cause for read more »

Children Go Where I Send Thee

TITLE: Children Go Where I Send Thee AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Bible, religious, Jesus, cumulative EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1936 (recording, Dennis Crampton & Robert Summers) Children, Go Where I Send Thee exemplifies [hope and redemption] beautifully because it was originally an African-American slave song – and no group in U.S. history read more »

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Hand on the Plow)

TITLE: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (Keep Your Hand on the Plow) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Bible, religious, prison EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1917 (Cecil Sharp collection) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Adapted for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1950’s. Based on the classic hymn “Hold On” (a.k.a. “Gospel Plow”), this song’s read more »

Ezekiel Saw a Wheel

TITLE: Ezekiel Saw the Wheel AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious, Bible EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1920 (recording, Biddle University Quartet) Ezekiel Saw the Wheel began its life as an African American spiritual. This song is based on a passage from Old Testament in which Ezekiel, a prophet living in exile in Babylon during the 500s read more »

Wondrous Love

TITLE: Wondrous Love AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious, reprieve EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The hymn’s lyrics were first published in Lynchburg, Virginia in the c. 1811 camp meeting songbook A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use. William Walker discovered the tune on his journey through the Appalachian region of America. Though read more »

Columbus, 67 (Once I Had a Glorious View)

TITLE: Columbus, 67 (Once I Had a Glorious View) AUTHOR: collected by Jesse Mercer CATEGORY: Author Known KEYWORDS: religious, Sacred Harp EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE:  Jesse Mercer’s Cluster of Spiritual Songs, 1810 I learned this one from Mark Bordeaux. Thanks. Jesse Mercer’s Cluster of Spiritual Songs (1810 was the most important hymn collection in the read more »

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 I’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 read more »

Old Ark’s a Moverin’

TITLE: Old Ark’s A-Moverin’ AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious, flood EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1911 (recording, Fisk University Jubilee Quartet) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The song refers to the biblical account of the great flood referred to in Genesis 7. “The Negro slaves and their descendants performed a religious dance called the ‘shout’ which vividly read more »

This Little Light of Mine

 TITLE: This Little Light of Mine AUTHOR: Harry Dixon Loes CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Civil Rights, Religious EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip This Little Light of Mine was written in the 1920s as a song for children by a white northern pastor/music teacher, Harry Dixon Loes. read more »

Down by the Riverside (Study War No More)

TITLE: Down by the Riverside (Study War No More) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: war, religious EARLIEST DATE: 1920 (recording, Fisk University Jubilee Quartet) Down by the Riverside has a long history and was known at the time of the American Civil War. The line “I ain’t gonna study war no more” perhaps originated from read more »

Adam in the Garden Pinin’ Leaves

TITLE: Adam in the Garden Pinin’ Leaves AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1934 (field recording, Alberta Bradford & Becky Elsey) This spiritual, probably from slave times, refers to Genesis 3:7 when the Bible mentions Adam making clothes of fig leaves. Other references in the song are when God looks for Adam read more »

Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep

TITLE: Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious, spiritual EARLIEST DATE: 1915 (recording, Fisk University Male Quartette) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Most music scholars believe that it was one of more than 100 spirituals constructed within Southern slave communities during the first half of the 19th century. “Mary Don’t You Weep” is an old African read more »

America (My Country Tis of Thee)

TITLE: America (My Country Tis of Thee) AUTHOR: Samuel Francis Smith CATEGORY: public domain, author known KEYWORDS: patriotic, America, religious, derivative EARLIEST DATE: 1831 (first recorded performance, though Smith later thought he wrote it in 1832, when it was first published) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: According to Spaeth (A History of Popular Music in America, p. 69), S. F. Smith discovered the tune of read more »

Come and Go With Me to That Land

TITLE: Come and Go With Me To That Land AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Public Domain, Traditional KEYWORDS: religious, spiritual EARLIEST DATE: mid-1800s ? The text of Come and Go with Me to that Land calls us to come and go to that land where we’ll all be united. . . .This  African American spiritual describes a number of conditions read more »

Simple Gifts

TITLE: Simple Gifts AUTHOR: Joseph Brackett, Jr. CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST DATE: 1848 Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. “received” the song in late spring or early summer of 1848 at a Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. Shakers, or The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, has “influenced American culture way beyond what read more »

Jacob’s Ladder

TITLE: Jacob’s Ladder AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST DATE: Harvey H. Fuson, Ballads of the Kentucky Highlands (1931) Jacob’s Ladder is a well-known spiritual “that seems to have both white and black antecedents. It was considered for inclusion in the first collection of black spirituals, the 1867 Slave Songs of the United States, but read more »

Come Ye Sinners (I Will Arise)

TITLE: Come Ye Sinners AUTHOR:  Verses: Joseph Hart, Refrain: Debated, Tune: Walker’s Southern Harmony CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Religious, Hymn, Jesus, God EARLIEST DATE: 1759 Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, Weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power. He is able, He read more »

Are You Washed in the Blood?

TITLE: Are You Washed in the Blood? AUTHOR: Elisha Hoffman CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST DATE: 1878, Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and the Sunday School  Elisha Hoffman was born in Pennsylvania in 1839, and he died ninety years later in 1929 in Chicago. Elisha enrolled in the Union Bible Seminary in read more »

Poor Wayfaring Stranger

TITLE: Poor Wayfaring Stranger AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious, death EARLIEST DATE: 1816 (Kentucky Harmony, as “Judgement”) Poor Wayfaring Stranger apparently had its origin in the traditions of shape-note hymnals, sings, and singing schools. Since musical instruments were scarce in early American life, the concept of geometrically shaped musical notes representing relative pitches read more »

Amazing Grace

TITLE: Amazing Grace AUTHOR: Words: John Newton (1725-1807) CATEGORY: author known, public domain KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST DATE: 1789 (reportedly composed) or 1831 (printed in Virginia Harmony) Most people know the story of John Newton (1725–1807) and his writing of the hymn Amazing Grace, but if you don’t, rent or purchase the PBS CD . John Newton’s gravestone reads: 

Come Thou Fount (Come Thy Fount)

TITLE: Come Thou Fount AUTHOR: Robert Robinson CATEGORY: public domain, author known KEYWORDS: religious EARLIEST DATE: 1757 Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is a Christian hymn written by the 18th century pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson. Robert Robinson penned the words at age 22 in the year 1757. At the age of 17, after  taking on read more »

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. Michael, Row the Boat Ashore (is an African-American spiritual and was first published in Slave read more »

I Shall Not Be Moved

I SHALL NOT BE MOVED: I Shall Not Be Moved AUTHOR: Alfred H. Ackley EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Ackley, “Hymns for His Praise No. 2”) KEYWORDS: virtue floatingverses nonballad religious Although some argue “I Shall Not Be Moved” was originally a slave song, there is no evidence that it appeared before 1906. The song is credited by read more »

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

TITLE: Swing Low Sweet Chariot AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain but perhaps authored by former slave Wallace Wallis KEYWORDS: religious, nonballad, slavery, floatingverses EARLIEST DATE: 1872 (publ. in Theodore B. Seward, “Jubilee Songs, as Sung by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University”) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Slavery in the United States The Fisk Jubilee Singers are read more »

America the Beautiful

TITLE: America, the Beautiful AUTHOR: Words: Katherine Lee Bates/Music: Samuel A. Ward CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: America, patriotic, religious, nonballad EARLIEST DATE: 1895 (“Congregationalist”) Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929) in 1893 was a professor of English heading for Colorado. She made several stops along the way: first at Niagara Falls, then at the World read more »

When the Saints Go Marching In

TITLE: When the Saints Go Marching In AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious nonballad EARLIEST DATE: 1896 (copyright) Originally a spiritual, When the Saints Go Marching In is now a jazz standard. The hymn expresses the singers desire to go to heaven, picturing the saints (or believers) walking in after death. James M. read more »

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

TITLE: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious nonballad EARLIEST DATE: 1927 “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is a traditional American spiritual. It was first published in the paperbound hymnal Spirituals Triumphant, Old and New, in 1927. In 1933, it was collected by Frank Warner from read more »

All My Trials

TITLE: All My Trials AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious nonballad EARLIEST DATE: 1961 (recording, Pete Seeger) I first heard the Peter, Paul, and Mary version and the song has remained a core piece of my soul and repertoire. All My Trials is based on a Bahamian lullaby that tells the story of read more »