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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More (Comments, Lyrics, & Videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics and comments of the early 20th century African American Gospel song "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More". This song also features lyrics, comments, and two videos of the secular (camp song) versions of this song. Those songs are commonly known as "Oh, You'll Never Get To Heaven".

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, religious, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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RELIGIOUS VERSIONS OF THIS SONG
"Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" has been most widely known since at least the mid 20th century as a call & response children's camp song. However, early versions of this song point to its origin in the late 19th century or the early 20th century as an African American Gospel song.

The African American Gospel origin of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord..." is evident in its call & response structure, and in the African American vernacular that those early verses, those titles, and those chorus lines have. The African American origin of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord..." is also evident in the use of verses found in versions of that song as as "floaters" in other African American songs (spirituals, Gospel songs, African American children's playground rhymes, civil rights songs, and early Rock N' Roll songs.)*

*An example of the use of lyrics of this song in children's rhymes is found below. The "Paul & Silas bound in jail" verse found below is an example of the use of floating verses from this song in civil rights song. An example of floating verse that is found in some religious and early non-religious (parody) versions of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord..." that is also found in an early Rock and Roll song is this verse from the Bo Diddley song "Dearest Darling": "if I get to heaven/ before you do/ I'll try to make a hole/ and pull you through". In my opinion, that verse is a parody of the Gospel floating verse "If you get to heaven before I do/ just tell my friends, I'm coming too".

Here are two examples of the early religious versions of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord..."
Example #1
..."Newman I White, 1928 (1965), "American Negro Folk Songs," no. 28, no. 70.

No. 70
Lyr. Add: AIN'T GONNA GRIEVE, MY LORD, NO MORE (4)

Oh! down in the valley where I was told
The grace of God is better than gold
The grace of God is better than gold.

Chorus:
Ain't gonna grieve my Lord no more,
Ain't gonna grieve my Lord no more.

Oh! watch the sun, see how it run,
Never let it catch you with your work undone,
Never let it catch you with your work undone.

Oh! down yonder in the harvest field,
The angels are working on the chariot wheel
The angels are working on the chariot wheel.

Oh! Satan's like a snake in the grass,
Always in some Christian's path (2x).

Oh! mind, my sister, how you walk on the cross,
Your right foot'll slip and your soul'll get lost (2x).

These verses used in many similar songs. MS of W. H. Lander, 1919, Durham, NC."
-Retrieved from http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=75082 (Hereafter known as Mudcat: Ain't Gonna Grieve),Q, Date: 03 Nov 04 - 11:25 PM

Editor's note: The Mudcat blogger who goes by the name "Q" wrote in that post that "there seems to be an older "Ain't Gonna Grieve" out there. Public Domain Music lists "I Ain't Gonna Grieve No More" with a date of 1865. No source is listed".
-snip-
Unfortunately, the link that Q gave for that information is no longer valid.
**
Example #2
I Ain't Gwine to Grieve My Lord No More

Oh, look up yonder! (Oh, look up yonder, yonder what I see?) What I see?
Bright angels coming after me (Bright angels coming after me).

CHORUS:
I ain't gwine to grieve my Lord no more,
For the Bible told me so;
I ain't gwine to grieve my Lord,
To grieve my Lord no more, no more.

Oh, Paul and Silas (Oh, Paul and Silas, Silas bound in jail) bound in jail,
The one did sing while the other prayed (The one did sing while the other prayed).
CHORUS

If you get there (If you get there before I do) before I do,
Look out for me, I'm coming through (Look out for me, I'm coming through).
CHORUS
-Carl Diton, Thirty-six South Carolina Spirituals, G. Schirmer, Inc. NY 1928
-Retrieved from "Mudcat: Ain't Gonna Grieve" posted by Joe Offer, Date: 06 Jul 07 - 04:57 AM, sent to him by Q

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EDITOR'S COMMENT ABOUT THE MEANNG OF THIS TITLE & LINE
Reposted from "Mudcat: Ain't Gonna Grieve", Azizi
Date: 23 Sep 05 - 09:35 PM

"Has anyone else ever wondered what the heck "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" means?...

I believe that "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" originally was an African American gospel song which translated in standard English is "I'm not going to mourn [be sorrowful] anymore".

The word "Lord" appears in a number of African American gospel, blues, and other genre of songs at the beginning of the sentence [sorry, I'm not sure what parts or part of speech this is called].
"My Lord! and "Lord Lord" also is used as an interjection in the middle of the sentences or lines in a number of different types of African American songs.

I don't think that the "My Lord" statement even necessarily means that the person is talking to the Lord God [Jesus?]. IMO, "My Lord" is an intensifier that stengthens or emphazizes the statement the person makes about not grieving anymore. In that case, the sentence means "I'm really not going to mourn anymore."

Of course, there's no way to know if my theory about the meaning of this sentence is true, but it works for me."
-snip-
Editor's Comment:
At least one person on that discussion thread vehemently indicated her belief that the title meant that the person singing was indicating that she or he would no longer give any grieve to the Lord. In response to that theory, I indicated that I believed that "my theory is more in keeping with the African American cultural use of the word "grieve" and "my lord"." For what it's worth, the aforementioned blogger Q agreed with my position.

Visit that Mudcat thread to read more comments about the meaning of that title, and to find more religious versions and non-religious versions of this song.

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NON-RELIGIOUS VERSIONS OF THIS SONG
Since at least the mid 20th century, in the United States & elsewhere "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" has been sung as a lighthearted folk song/children's camp song. Its origin as an African American Gospel song is largely unknown.

Non-religious versions of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" appear to be most often known as "Oh You Can't Get To Heaven" or "Oh You'll Never Get To Heaven". Those titles are lifted from the chorus that is generally used for this song. "Oh You Can't Get To Heaven" may also be known by the title "The Deacon Went Down To The Cellar To Pray". That title comes from a verse that is commonly sung for this song.

Some standard verses from "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" are floaters, meaning they are used with other songs. One such song is "I Woke Up Sunday Morning". Click http://cocojams.com/content/childrens-camp-songs for information and examples about that song.

Also from at least the mid 20th century, while there were some standard verses for the non-religious versions of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord..", there was also the expectation that people would come up with additional, two line silly or witty rhyming or near rhyming verses for that song. Unfortunately, this custom appears to have largely been put aside.

Here's one non-religious version of "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More":

AIN'T GONNA GRIEVE MY LORD NO MORE
Oh, the Deacon went down, (2x)
To the cellar to pray, (2x)
He found a jug, (2x)
And he stayed all day. (2x)
Oh, the Deacon went down to the cellar to pray,
He found a jug and he stayed all day,
Ain't gonna grieve my Lord no more.

cho: I ain't a-gonna grieve my Lord no more.
I ain't a-gonna grieve my lord no more.
Ain't a-gonna grieve my Lord no more.

You can't get to Heaven on roller skates,
You'll roll right by them pearly gates.

You can't get to Heaven on a rocking chair,
'Cause the Lord don't want no lazybones there.

You can't get to Heaven in a limousine,
'Cause the Lord don't sell no gasoline.

If you get to Heaven before I do,
Just drill a hole and pull me through.

If I get to Heaven before you do,
I'll plug that hole with shavings and glue.

You can't get to Heaven with powder and paint,
It makes you look like what you ain't.

You can't chew tobaccy on that golden shore,
'Cause the Lord don't have no cuspidor.

"That's all there is, there ain't no more,"
Saint Peter said as he closed the door.

There's one thing more I forgot to tell,
If you don't go to Heaven, you'll go to Hell.

I'll put my grief up on the shelf,
If you want some more, make 'em up yourself.

Source: http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=159
-snip-
Some "You can't get to heaven" verses are mild putdowns. Making up those kinds of verses can be considered to be a "pre-dozens" exercise.**

An example of what I mean by a "mild putdowns" is this verse:
"You can't get to Heaven with powder and paint,
It makes you look like what you ain't.
-snip-
An example of a mild putdown that I made up when I was a child is:
"Oh you'll never get to heaven with Debbie's face.
'Cause Debbie's face is a disgrace."
-snip-
Of course, I didn't sing this verse to be mean. It was all in fun. That said, I realize now that such putdowns can be hurtful.

** In African American culture, "the dozens" is a formulaic competitive exchange of insults between two persons. Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dozens for information about "the dozens".

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FEATURED VIDEOS
Video #1: You'll never get to heaven......



Steven Pearson Published on Jul 7, 2012

Exeter Cathedral pre-prep
-SNIP-
This school is in the United Kingdom. "Pre-Prep" apparently the same thing as "pre-school".
Here's my transcription of this rendition of this song:
The video begins with the line "Ain't gonna grieve* my Lord, no more

Oh you'll never get to heaven
[repeat]
In a rocket ship
[repeat]
Cause a rocket ship
[repeat]
Won't make the trip.
[repeat]
Oh you'll never get to heaven
In a rocket ship
Cause a rocket ship
Won't make the trip.
Ain't gonna grieve my Lord no more.

(Same pattern)
in an old junk car
Cause an old junk car
Won't get that far

in an biscuit tin**
Cause an biscuit tin
Has biscuit in

last verse ???
-snip-
*The word "grieve" sounds like "leave" in this video. However, I used "grieve" because that's the traditional word for this song.
**A tin container for biscuits (which might be the same as some American cookies)

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Video #2: Oh you can't get to Heaven



Uploaded by singinggrandpa on Dec 13, 2007

Family traditions of folk songs and gospel hymns are sung at every holiday and get together. These were recorded Thanksgiving 2007 to memorialize many of the songs we have heard for years and were special songs to us growing up.

Some are familiar hymns and folk songs, some are very unique and rarely every heard. Some date back over 100 years.

Hope you enjoy them
-snip-
Editor's Comment:
For the record (no pun intended), I consider the second verse of "Oh You Can't Get To Heaven" that is sung in this video to be (probably unknowingly) culturally insensitive. That verse is:
"Oh you can't get to heaven with a freckled face...
'Cause God don't want no speckled race.

However, I selected this video because it & the uploader's comments demonstrate the tradition of informally singing "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" ("Oh You Can't Get To Heaven") during family gatherings & how sometimes extemporaneous verses were added to its "standard" verses.

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RELATED LINKS
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/09/bo-diddley-dearest-darling-sound-file.html

http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/05/songs-about-devil-being-mad-part-i-aint.html

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS
Thanks to the original unknown composers of this song. Thanks also to all those whose comments, lyrical transcriptions, and videos are reposted on this page.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

6 comments:

  1. My father taught me this song with a few other verses that were popular in the Philadelphia/ Camden area during the 20's and 30's.

    Oh You can't get to heaven on a trolley car
    Cause the PTC track don't go that far.

    Oh You can't get to heaven on Superman's back
    To Save Lois Lane, He'll drop you Jack.

    Has anyone else heard any more localized verses?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, anonymous April 24, 2014 for your comment and for sharing the verses that your taught you. Thanks also for including demographical information.

      Here's the same "PTC" version from Philly that you shared. The poster learned it in the early 1960s "from his father's time": (This is from that same Mudcat discussion thread whose link I gave in this post: http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=75082)

      Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More
      From: Mark Cohen
      Date: 22 Sep 05 - 11:00 PM

      As a kid in Philadelphia in the early 60's, we sang one verse that probably dated from my father's time:

      Oh you can't get to heaven in a trolley car
      'Cause the PTC doesn't go that far

      (The PTC was the Philadelphia Transportation Company, which started out long ago as the Philadelphia Traction Company, and since about 1969 has been the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTIC--sorry, SEPTA)

      The other Philadelphia verse, which has been borrowed by other songs, is:

      Oh, you can't get to heaven on the Frankford El
      'Cause the Frankford El goes straight to Frankford"
      -snip-
      Here's one more localized example from that discussion thread:
      "Subject: RE: Lyr Req: More of 'Ain't Gonna Grieve, My Lord, No More
      From: GUEST
      Date: 03 Nov 04 - 12:54 AM

      In New York City, we used to sing a verse that will take a little bit of explaining;

      Oh, you can't get to heaven
      On the BMT
      'Cause the BMT
      Won't BMT

      The BMT was the name for one of the three systems of subway lines, the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit company. The last BMT is a pun - it's really "be empty." "
      -snip-
      Here's a

      Another localized referent to a version from Scotland is given on 19 Dec 04 - 09:11 AM of that thread.

      Delete
  2. I recall singing this song in 5th grade (1979), but it went like this: oh the deacon went down to the cellar to pray, he fell asleep and he stayed all. ..... i can't find this version. I wanted to find the rest of the words our music teacher taught us at Ormond beach elementary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, 4610.

      Several examples of that verse "oh the deacon went down to the cellar to pray, he fell asleep and he stayed all day" are found on the Mudcat discussion thread on the song "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=75082

      I've also found the "he fell asleep" version of this parody on other sites such as Scouting In Canada http://www.scoutscan.com/songs/songsi.html

      I believe that the "he got drunk and stayed all day" is older than the more "politically correct" version of "he fell asleep and he stayed all day" form.

      "The preacher got drunk" form might be older than the "the deacon got drunk". But I personally prefer the alliteration of the "deacon got drunk and stayed all day" version.

      Delete
  3. My favorite Philadelphia verse later got its own song:

    You can't get to heaven on the Frankford El
    'cause the Frankford El, goes straight to Frankford.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha Ha!

      Thanks for sharing that verse with us Jonathan Dushoff.

      I'm from Atlantic City, N J, and I vaguely remember riding an El in Philly, but I don't know if it was the Frankford El or not.

      Delete