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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Black Christmas Songs About Naming Jesus (videos & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents examples of several African American Christmas songs and one Trinidadian Christmas song that contain lyrics about what name Mary should give to her newborn son.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, religious, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

FEATURED EXAMPLES
(Unless otherwise cited, the partial transcriptions of these songs were made by me from the videos.)

Example #1: Barbara Hendricks - Mary Had a Baby



arteverum, Uploaded on Nov 25, 2010
Barbara Hendricks
- from the New Christmas album: Shout for Joy -- Spiritual Christmas... www.arteverum.com

Partial Lyrics - MARY HAD A BABY
(traditional African American Spiritual)

Mary had a baby
(My Lord) *
Mary had a baby
(My Lord)
Mary had a baby
Mary had a baby
Mary had a baby
(Oh Lord)

She laid Him in a manger etc.

What did she name Him etc.

She named Him King Jesus etc.

Mary had a baby etc.

[The refrain given in parenthesis is either "My Lord", "Oh Lord", or humming].
-snip-
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsGvuRIxR4E for a video of "Mary Had A Baby" with the ending "people keep-a coming but the train done gone." However, that medley arrangement of that song (with the song "Amen") doesn't include the "what do you call Him" verses.

Also, click http://www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/mary_had_a_baby.htm for lyrics to "Mary Had A Baby" with the "people keep a comin, but the train done gone" line.

Here's information regarding the "People keep-a comin but the train done gone" version of "Mary Had A Baby":
From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=28441 ,posted by Guest Becky, Dec. 7, 2000:
"That song 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. Ballanta (Schirmer 1925) and the Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School of St. Helena Island, South Carolina".*

*[The state was given as "North Carolina", and was corrected later in that discussion thread. I gave the name of the correct state in this quote.]

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Example #2: The Nathaniel Dett Chorale - Mary Had A Baby



Liam Romalis, Uploaded on Jan 21, 2008
From An Indigo Christmas with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale,
produced by Riddle Films.

Partial lyrics: "MARY HAD A BABY" (arranger: Roland Carter)
Choir- What did they call Him
Soloist- Some call Him one thing
Oh, but I’ll call Him another
Choir - What did call Him
Soloist- Some call Him Emmanuel
But I’ll Him Sweet Little Jesus Boy
I’ll call Him Jesus
Choir & Soloist-He is called
King Jesus
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Soloist- He’s the Prince Of Peace
Choir- Mary had a baby
Soloist-Oh, yes
Choir- Mary had a baby
Soloist & Choir- Oh my Lord...

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Example #3: Spelman's Women's Choir - What You Going To Call Your Pretty Little Baby



mikep793, Uploaded on Dec 13, 2010
Christmas Concert [A commenter indicated that this performance date was likely to be December 1996.]

Partial Lyrics - WHAT YOU GONNA CALL YOUR PRETTY LITTLE BABY
From http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/what_you_gonna_call_your_pretty.htm
"Elizabeth Poston, in The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols, gives this version (with music).

1. What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby?
Born, born in Bethlehem.
Some say one thing, I'll say Immanuel,
Born, born in Bethlehem...

She noted: "Traditional Negro Christmas spiritual (general), of characteristic simplicity in question-and-answer form and strong rhythm. An earlier version is 'Mary, what yer gwin er name dat Purty Leetle Baby' in Southern Thoughts for Northern Thinkers by Jeannette Robinson Murphy (Bandanna Publishing Co., New York, 1904)."

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Example #4: Joan Baez - Virgin Mary (Had One Son)



Uploaded on Dec 25, 2007
Joan Baez singing Virgin Mary (traditional)*

Partial lyrics - VIRGIN MARY HAD ONE SON

Virgin Mary had a one son,
Oh, glory halleluja,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King.

"Well, Mary how you call that pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King".

"Well, some call Him Jesus, think I'll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I'll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I'll call Him Savior,
Glory be to the new born King"...

*"Traditional" means "traditional African American Spiritual" if this song is a version of "Mary Had A Baby". However, "traditional" may mean "traditional Trinidad Spiritual" if this song is a version of "The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy". Of course, this song might be a blend of both those songs.

These lyrics are found in the video uploader's summary statement at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOAAHlYMKYc

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Example #5: Timothy Wright-Oh What A Pretty Little Baby



StyleNMan,Uploaded on Oct 18, 2010

Great classic throwdown by The Late Reverend Timothy Wright
-snip-
Recording date - 1993

Lyrics: OH WHAT A PRETTY LITTLE BABY
(as arranged by Timothy Wright, composer Rev. James Cleveland [?])

Verse 1
Oh what a pretty little baby,
a pretty little baby born in a manger.
Oh what a pretty little baby,
(Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is His name).

Verse 2
Come let, come let us adore Him,
come let us adore Him, born the King of angels,
come let, come let us adore Him,
(Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is His name).

Vamp
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
hallelujah, hallelujah

http://www.lyrics007.com/Timothy%20Wright%20Lyrics/Oh%20What%20A%20Pretty%20Little%20Baby%20Lyrics.html

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/12/examples-of-oh-what-pretty-little-baby.html for videos of other versions of "Oh What A Pretty Little Baby".

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Example #6: The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy [Live]



Music video by Bill & Gloria Gaither performing The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy (feat. Babbie Mason and Jessy Dixon) [Live].
GaitherVEVO, Published on Nov 15, 2012

Partial Lyrics: THE VIRGIN MARY HAD A BABY BOY
(Traditional Trinidad, West Indies Spiritual)

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
And they say that His name is Jesus.

Chorus:
He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom
He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom
Oh yes, believer!
Oh yes, believer!
He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom...

From http://www.christmas-songs.org/songs/the_virgin_mary_had_a_baby_boy.html
-snip-
Here's some information about this song from http://compvid101.blogspot.com/2011/01/edric-connor-and-virgin-mary-had-baby.html
Comparative Video 101 Selected Videos Of And Commentary About Some Classic Folk, Roots, And Americana Songs
"Virgin Mary" ... is equally unique as what its collector Edric Connor termed "the only West Indian negro carol I found" in his 1945 collection The Edric Connor Collection of West Indian Folk Songs and Tunes.
-snip-
Trinidad-born Edric Connor (1913-1968) was a collector & performer.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the composers, arrangers, and performers of this song. Also, thanks to those who transcribed these songs, provided information these songs, and/or uploaded videos that are featured in this post.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Extrapolating the meaning of these Black Christmas songs about naming Jesus to naming practices in Black cultures, these songs document the importance in Black cultures of choosing a name for a child. These songs also document that a person might be known by more than one name because communnity members can give him or her a name or names that reflect their relationship with that person, that person's characteristic/s, that person's appearance, something that happened in that person's life, what that person is known for, or something that is projected that the person will be known for.

    These naming practices account for the likelihood that a Black person from Africa or the African Diaspora is likely to have at least one nickname.

    The Black traditions of giving a person multiple names (or nicknames) is also reflected in multiple names, including praise names, that have been used for traditional African Supreme Deity in a given culture and for the lesser African deities in that same culture. For instance, in the traditional Yoruba religion (Nigeria, West African), the Supreme Deity is known by three names: Olorun, Olodumare, and Olofi, and the messenger orisa (orisha) between the human and divine world (whose role is similar to the Greek god Mercury) is known by the names Esu (Eshu), Elegba, Legbara, and other names. Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olorun and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orisha

    The tradition of using praise names as referents for God is also found in certain contemporary Christian songs. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/jehovah-jireh-other-praise-names-for.html.

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