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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Freedom (Civil Rights) Adaptations Of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" (United States)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a four part series about the song "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Part III provides information and comments about freedom (civil rights) adaptations of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" (United States). Lyrics and three YouTube examples of those adaptations are also included in that post.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/12/early-lyrics-for-christmas-song-go-tell.html for Part I of this series. Part I provides information and comments about and lyric examples for early versions of the song "Go Tell It On The Mountain".

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/12/three-examples-of-mahalia-jackson.html for Part II of this series.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-wailers-peter-tosh-lead-singer-go.html for Part IV of this series. Part IV showcases a 1969 Reggae version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" that is performed by the Wailers.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composer/s of the freedom (civil rights) adaptations of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and thanks to all the performers of the freedom (civil rights) adaptations of that song who are showcased on this page. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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WHO WAS THE FIRST TO COMPOSE AND PERFORM A FREEDOM (CIVIL RIGHTS) VERSION OF "GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN"?
Contrary to some online articles and comments that state without reservation that the Anglo- American folk singers Peter, Paul, and Mary were the composers and earliest performers of a freedom (civil rights) adaptation of "Go Tell It On The Mountain", the composer and earliest performer of a freedom (civil rights) version of that song may have been African American civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Here's information about Peter, Paul, and Mary from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter,_Paul_and_Mary:
"Peter, Paul and Mary were an American folk-singing trio whose nearly 50-year career began with their rise to become a paradigm for 1960s folk music. The trio was composed of folk songwriter Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. After the death of Travers in 2009, Yarrow and Stookey continued to perform as a duo under their individual names.[1]"

Here's information about Fannie Lou Hamer from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Lou_Hamer
"Fannie Lou Hamer... born Fannie Lou Townsend; October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi's Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey."...

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FREEDOM (CIVIL RIGHTS) ADAPTATIONS OF "GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN" (UNITED STATES) -INFORMATION, COMMENTS, LYRICS
From http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=2309

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN (2)

Cho: Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hill and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
To let my people go.

Who's that yonder dressed in red?
(Let my people go)
Must be the children that Moses led.
(let my people go)

Chorus

(repeat the whole thing using:)

Who's that yonder dressed in white?
Must be the children of the Israelite.

Who's that yonder dressed in black?
Must be the hypocrites turning back.
-snip-
"Go Tell It On The Mountain" (1) is a Christmas version. The lyrics for "Go Tell It On The Mountain" (2) are attributed to Fannie Lou Hamer in the Mudcat discussion thread whose link is given below, although the notation on that page erroneously refers to this song as a Spiritual.

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From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=3744">http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=3744

posted by Joe Offer 17 Jan 98 - 03:37 AM
..."Here are some verses added for civil rights marches:
Who's that yonder dressed in red...
Must be the children Bob Moses led

...black...Uncle Toms turning back.

...blue....Registrars coming through.
And an alternate for another part:
You know I would not be Governor Wallace*
I'll tell you the reason why,
I'd be afraid my Lord might call me
And I would not be ready to die.
Halleluia.

(*Mayor Boutwell, Barry Goldwater, the segregationists, etc.)

CHORUS:
Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain,
To let my people go.

-or-

CHORUS:
Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain,
That freedom is coming soon.

(as sung by Fannie Lou Hamer at the State Convention of the Mississippi Democratic Party - date not shown)
Source: Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement and Its Songs, edited and compiled by Guy and Candie Carawan (©Sing Out Corporation, 1960, 1990, 1992)

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posted by Bill D, 18 Jan 98 - 12:32 PM
"Thanksgiving week of 1964, I was in Hattiesburg, Miss., with a group of 'outside agitators' from Kansas who were assisting on a voter registration drive. Part of this job consisted of picketing the courthouse during business hours....round & round a little 3 cornered walk in front, totally bored except for the occasional local who decided to use someone in line to test his spitting aim.

On about day 3 I was there, after about 2 hours, a young black girl directly in front of me in line(I guess she was about 14) just suddenly began slowly singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain" in an absolutely beautiful contralto! Of course, in 15 seconds, we were all singing, and I have never heard the power of song more wonderfully used! We sang the "red...black...etc". version, but in the old church mode and speed.....well, we sang about 4 1/2 verses before the sheriff appeared and told us in no uncertain terms that we "had a permit for walkin'...not no damn permit for singin'".. and that if we didn't shut up, we would all be arrrested. So, we shrugged and just marched....but that song was in everyones head all day and we had made the point and one more step. (Last I heard, Hattiesburg had a black mayor....)"...

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posted by Joe Offer, 22 Nov 08 - 04:58 PM
..."Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:
[entries for Christmas versions of "Go Tell It On The Mountain"]

... Go Tell It on the Mountain (II -- Freedom)
DESCRIPTION: "Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain To let my people go." The singer describes the people, clothed in various colors, coming out of bondage
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1963 (recorded by Fannie Lou Hamer)
KEYWORDS: religious freedom nonballad travel
FOUND IN: US Jamaica
REFERENCES (1 citation):
DT, GOTELMT2
Roud #15220
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Go Tell It on the Mountain (I -- Christmas)"
cf. "Jesus Setta Me Free" (lyrics)
Notes: The "freedom" adaptation of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" came out of the civil rights movement of the early 1960s. I list "Jamaica" as a location in the "FOUND IN" field because this version was recorded by Bob Marley long before he became an internationally-known star, when reggae was still arguably an indigenous folk style. Does this qualify within the "folk tradition"? Eyes of the beholder, perhaps, but I wanted the fact noted. - PJS"

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posted by Joe Offer, 22 Nov 08 - 07:12 PM
"OK, so here's another Fannie Lou Hamer version. Did she take it from PP&M, or vice-versa?

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN
Led by Fannie Lou Hamer, recorded in Greenwood, Mississippi
(Fall, 1963)

Chorus:
Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills, and everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain
To let my people go.

Paul and Silas bound in jail.
Let my people go.
Had nobody for to go their bail.
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Paul and Silas began to shout,
Let my people go.
Jail door opened, and they walked out.
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Who's that yonder dressed in red?
Let my people go.
Must be the children that Moses led.
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Who's that yonder dressed in black?
Let my people go.
Must be the hypocrites turning back.
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

I had a little book, he gave to me,
Let my people go.
And every page spelled victory.
Let my people go.
(Chorus - twice)

The Hamer recording may be found on the Smithsonian/Folkways CD, Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966."

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posted by Q, 30 Nov 08 - 08:55 PM
"The Paul and Silas verses used by Hamer are known in several forms in older spirituals. Here is part of a spiritual sung by Rebecca Taylor for Carl Sandburg and included in his 1927 "American Songbag:

ALL NIGHT LONG
1
Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
All night long.
One for to sing an' de other foh to pray,
All night long.
One for to sing an' de othah foh to pray,
All night long.
Do, Lawd, delibah po' me!
(two more verses; pp. 448-449, with musical score.)

The Stanley Bros. sang "Paul and Silas;" the first verse:
Paul and Silas bound in jail all night long, (3x)
Saying who shall deliver for me.

Hamer combined the Paul and Silas lines with lines from "Go down, Moses;" 'Let my people go,' etc. is from old spirituals.

I think search will show Hamer's lines and verses mostly are floaters used in several spirituals. The 'combination' might be new, but little else

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SHOWCASE EXAMPLES WITH LYRICS
These examples are presented in chronological order based on their publishing date on YouTube with the examples with the oldest date given first.

Example #1:
"Tell it on the Mountain" Peter, Paul and Mary



catman916, Uploaded on Aug 5, 2010

One of my favorite folk songs from the 1960s, "Tell It on the Mountain," was adapted and rewritten by Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers from the 19th Century African-American spiritual, "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The song was included in the 1963 Warner Bros album, In the Wind and was released as a single reaching #33 on the US pop chart in 1964. The lyrics truly reflect on the era. I do not own the right to the song, audio, or images contained in this video. The sound recording is administered by WMG. No copyright infringement is intended. The purpose of this upload is for viewer enjoyment and education not for monetary gain.
-snip-
Lyrics:

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

Who's that yonder dressed in red, let My people go
Must be the children that Moses led, let My people go
Who's that yonder dressed in red
Must be the children that Moses led
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

Who's that yonder dressed in white, let My people go
Must be the children of the Israelite, let My people go
Who's that yonder dressed in white
Must be the children of the Israelite
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

Who's that yonder dressed in black, let My people go
Must be the hypocrites turnin' back, let My people go
Who's that yonder dressed in black
Must be the hypocrites turnin' back

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain, to let My people go

From http://www.metrolyrics.com/tell-it-on-the-mountain-lyrics-peter-paul-mary.html
That website includes a notation that Peter Stookey, Noel Paul, Mary Travers, and Milton T. Okun are the songwriters of this version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain".

Read the comment by Q given above in the information & comment section about how Fannie Lou Hamer's version of 'Go Tell It On The Mountain' "combined the Paul and Silas lines with lines from "Go down, Moses;" 'Let my people go,' etc. is from old spirituals. The same can be said of the Peter, Paul, and Mary version of that song. Peter, Paul, and Mary's adaptation of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" borrows heavily from the African American Spiritual "Wade In The Water". That Spiritual contains the "whose that yonder dressed in white" (or other colors) lyrics and the lyrics "let my people go".

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Example #2: Go Tell It On The Mountain - by Fannie Lou Hamer



MyoclonicSlug, Uploaded on Feb 5, 2012
-snip-
Read the information and comment section above for the lyrics for Fannie Lou Hamer's recording of "Go Tell It On The Mountain".

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2 comments:

  1. For what it's worth, although I know a lot of civil rights songs*, and thought I was reasonably familiar with the reggae group the Wailers, I wasn't aware of any of the United States or Jamaican "let my people go" ("set my people free") versions of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" until I started to do research for a pancocojams post on the more widely known Christian version of that song.

    *Click http://civilrightssongs.blogspot.com/ for my blog that showcases lyrics for a number of civil rights songs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, for what it's worth, all the bloggers quoted from Mudcat in this post are White (Anglo-American).

    Bill D. is one of a number of White Americans who participated in 1960s civil rights protests/demonstrations.

    ReplyDelete