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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Read 'em John (with lyrics & song explanation)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post features two videos of the Carolina Chocolate Drops performing the Georgia Sea Isle song "Read' Em John". This post also features a rendition of "Read 'Em John" by Steve Levitt. The lyrics to "Read 'Em John" and the meaning of that song are also presented in this post.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Chocolate_Drops
"The Carolina Chocolate Drops is an old-time string band from Durham, North Carolina, United States. Its 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig, won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, and was number 9 in FRoots magazine's top 10 albums of 2010.

The Drops are one of the two known full-time African American string bands...

All of the musicians sing and trade instruments including banjo, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, snare drum, bones, jug, and kazoo. The group learned much of their repertoire, which is based on the traditional music of the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina,[2] from the eminent African American old-time fiddler Joe Thompson, although they also perform old-time versions of some modern songs such as Blu Cantrell's R&B hit "Hit 'em Up Style (Oops!)." "

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EXPLANATION OF THE SONG "READ 'EM JOHN"
From the summary statement of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bXdcP19aVU "Read'em John" performed by Steve Levitt. (This video is given below as a Bonus video)
"[John] Refers to John the Revelator, doing what the slave was not allowed to do--reading. But not just reading, but reading with an authority that no one else could match of the doom of his masters and the end of the wicked world they had created and ascent of the persecuted and good into heaven. Field recorded by Alan Lomax and included in "Georgia Sea Island Songs." "
-snip-
Information about John The Revelator from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Revelator_(song)
" "John the Revelator" is a traditional Gospel blues call and response song.[1] In the chorus, John of Patmos, the traditional author of the Book of Revelation, is writing "the book of the seven seals." At the time of the song's composition (and in modern times), John of Patmos was generally considered the same person as John the Apostle and John the Evangelist.

The song was recorded on April 20, 1930 in Atlanta, Georgia by Blind Willie Johnson and is included in the Anthology of American Folk Music.[1][2][3]"
-snip-
Here's an excerpt of the Blind Willie Johnson version of "John The Revelator":
[call] Who's that writin'? [response] John the Revelator[6]
Tell me who's that writin'? John the Revelator
Tell me who's that writin'? John the Revelator
Wrote the book of the seven seals[7]"
-snip
In contrast to "John The Revelator", the song "Read 'em John" focuses on John reading a letter. According to this interpretation, that letter is a substitution for or an oblique reference to the New Testament book of Revelations.

In the line "read'em let me go" (Read them and (then) let me go), the phrase "let me go" means "Let me go to my home in up in heaven". The "one by one", two by two" etc verse refers to how the "saints" [Christians] enter into heaven.

Given this interpretation of "Read 'em John", that song should be considered an old time African American religious (Gospel) song.

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FEATURED VIDEOS
Here are two Carolina Chocolate Drops performances of "Read 'em John". Notice the handclapping patterns that accompany this song. In other videos of this song, some of the members of the Chocolate Drops can also be seen adding foot stomps while they sing and clap their hands to this song.

Example #1: Carolina Chocolate Drops "Read Em John"



Johnny Miller, Uploaded on Jun 9, 2011
April 8 2011 at the Barrymore Theatre, Madison Wisconsin - part 19 : http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLB...

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Example #2: Carolina Chocolate Drops Rock the Food & Community Conference -"Read 'Em John"



2010PHP, Published on May 23, 2012

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LYRICS - READ 'EM JOHN
(An old time Georgia Sea Isle Gospel song with no known composer/s)

Verse #1 [The song begins with the lead and the other members of the group join in unison]
John wrote a letter and laid it on the table.
No one can read'em like old John.
Read ‘em let me go.

Chorus:
Lead -Now read ’em John.
Group- (Read ’em.)
Lead -Read ’em John.
Group- (Read ’em.)
Lead - Read ’em John.
Group- (Read ’em.)
Lead and Group - No one can read ’em like old John.
Read’em let me go.

Lead -Now read ’em John.
Group- (Read ’em.)
Lead -Read ’em John.
Group- (Read ’em.)
Lead and Group - Read ’em let me go.

Verse #2 [Entire Group]
Now it’s one by one
and two by two
and three by three
Four by four
No one can read ’em like old John
Read ‘em let me go.

Chorus

[Repeat chorus and verses in whatever order you choose.]
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the videos. Additions and corrections are welcome.

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BONUS VIDEO OF ANOTHER RENDITION OF "READ 'EM JOHN"

Read'em, John.wmv


steve levitt, Uploaded on Feb 6, 2012

"Read'em, John" on Akonting. Refers to John the Revelator, doing what the slave was not allowed to do--reading. But not just reading, but reading with an authority that no one else could match of the doom of his masters and the end of the wicked world they had created and ascent of the persecuted and good into heaven. Field recorded by Alan Lomax and included in "Georgia Sea Island Songs." Present version adds Akonting rhythm. For more videos go to www.duelingshoes.com
-snip-
Notice that Steve sings all of the other lyrics given above, with the exception of a slight but meaningful change to that song's last iine. In his rendition, that line is sung as "Read’em let us go.”

Here's information about the akonting musical instrument from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akonting
"The akonting (or ekonting in French transliteration) is the folk lute of the Jola people, found in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. It is a banjo-like instrument with a skin-headed gourd body, two long melody strings, and one short drone string, akin to the short fifth "thumb string" on the 5-string banjo."

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RELATED LINK
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/04/john-revelator.html

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the unknown composer/s of this song. My thanks also to the Carolina Chocolate Drops for their musical legacy that helps acquaint people to the richness of old time music. Thanks to Steve Levitt for sharing his old time music videos,and for clarifying the meaning of the song "Read 'em John". My thanks also to the producers and the publishers of these videos on YouTube .

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