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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Staple Singers- "I'm Coming Home" ("Tell Heaven") sound file, lyrics, and comments

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides general information about The Staple Singers and showcase the Gospel song "I'm Coming Home" (aka "Tell Heaven").

A video of a version of that song as performed by The Staple Singers is also included in this post along with a transcription of the lyrics for that version and comments about that song by the transcriber.

Selected comments from that YouTube sound file's discussion thread are also included in this post.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to The Staple Singers for their musical legacy.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this sound file on YouTube.

Special thanks to Amy Shacklett for introducing me to this song and for sharing her transcription and comments about The Staple Singers' "I'm Coming Home" (aka "Tell Heaven")

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INFORMATION ABOUT THE STAPLE SINGERS
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Staple_Singers
"The Staple Singers were an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group. Roebuck "Pops" Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), and Mavis (b. 1939). Yvonne (b. 1936) replaced her brother when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and again in 1970. They are best known for their 1970s hits "Respect Yourself", "I'll Take You There", "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)", and "Let's Do It Again", which with one exception ("I'll Take You There") peaked on the Hot 100 within a week from Christmas Day.

While the family name is Staples, the group used "Staple" commercially."...

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SHOWCASE SOUND FILE: I'm Coming Home - The Staple Singers (1959)



king689soulclassics, Uploaded on Sep 1, 2011
-snip-
Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paBdkQI9gNM for a different rendition of this song by The Staple Singers with the song title "Tell Heaven". That version was "recorded live at Chicago's New Nazareth Church" [date?].
-snip-
Here are selected comments from the discussion thread for this post's YouTube showcase sound file:
Comments are numbered for referencing purposes only.
2011
1. Ravily .gauthier
"Thanks for this gift . It is pure love ."

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2012
2. geodiomio
"so beautiful it's angelic . thank you for blessing us all with this gift."

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3. wringinitout9
"A girl so young having a voice like that, AMAZING, VINTAGE, I LOVE IT. HarmOzise POPS' AND sisters, This ia a song, that rocks the soul and all the spritual essence of life. I have been loving them since the very first time people would, now try this, sing this, I felL in love with CLEOTHA MY SISTA, REST WITH OUR LORD AND SAVIOR. Sing on Mavis, with your raspy voice, have mercy!! LADY U R THE STUFF!"

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4. genesclean1
"Rest In Peace Cleedy ~"I credit Pops' guitar and Cleedy's voice with making our sound so different," Mavis Staples said. "Her high voice -- Pops would take her to a minor key a lot. A lot of singers would try to sing like her..' Her voice would just ring in your ear. It wasn't harsh or hitting you hard, it was soothing. . The way we sang was the way Pops and his brothers and sisters would sing down in Mississippi. Those were the voices they would use to sing after dinner out on the gallery.""

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2013
5. Anthony McCarthy
"An absolute masterpiece of spiritual art."

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6. mondovb
"Frightening, and frightenly awesome. Why this tune, not to mention this entire family, is still something of an "insider secret" after all of these years, is beyond me, despite all of the critical recognition they've received since.

Lucky for the rest of us that Mavis is still belting it out today - more power to her!"

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7. Maggie Rae
"I love the Staple Singers, I love this song, and I love Mavis's voice."

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8. marksil00
"The power behind that woman's voice is overwhelming. She sings about hell, and then tells you how to get to heaven. Thank You for posting this masterpiece."

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9. Freeknowledgefan
"This is an absolute masterpiece. From Mr. Staples' first note right to the end. He is one of my favorite guitarists, so few notes but every one of them is so full of meaning. The arrangement is superb and the singing amazingly good."

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2014
10. zaihiraray
"A Righteous vocal delivery from Gospel singers extraordinaire. Mavis takes it to church.. Amen and Hallelujah... I believe that she has such a gifted vocal talent
and uses it well. Along with the rest of the family. A performance of truly inspirational upliftment.YAY, I am coming home."

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2015
11. olsonjk2
"An incredible vocal performance by 19 yr old Mavis. Absolutely mesmerizing. That voice is literally from above."

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12. Flora Bunda
"The best, most powerful version I've ever heard. And it goes on and on and on. Such a joy. Full of emotion; passion, moved by the spirit, and of course gorgeous singing, harmonies. I've looked around for lyrics, and even those allegedly by the Staple Singers don't contain all the verses sung here. Some verses from other gospel songs are incorporated it seems (eg: I don't know but I've been told; streets of heaven are paved with gold." Need to listen to it a lot more and figure out more of the verses.."

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13. TheFizz40
"Brilliant. Joplin always said Mavis was her biggest influence. This makes it plain."
-snip-
"Joplin" = American singer Janis Joplin

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COMMENTS ABOUT AND TRANSCRIPTION OF A VERSION OF THE STAPLE SINGERS' "I'M COMING HOME" (also known as "TELL HEAVEN') from emails to Azizi Powell from Amy Shacklett, February 6, 2017 9:53 AM [emails excerpts shared with prior permission]

"Hi Azizi

I'm writing about the Staple Singers' song "I'm Coming Home" (aka "Tell Heaven"). Since the lyrics vary on different recordings, I attached an mp3 of the version I'm going to tell you about & here's a link to the video.

The song starts with the singer saying she's going to heaven on the morning train. The other day I really heard a later verse that passed me by before. The words "I'm gonna choose my seat" jumped out at me. Other times I didn't catch the significance of what it was talking about. At that point I got pretty choked up. This version of the song was released as a single in 1956, very soon after Rosa Parks refused to move. It was released on the album "Uncloudy Days" in 1959.

I couldn't find lyrics so I decided to write out them out (below)-- not easy in some places. Of course I might have gotten parts of it wrong. I had a hard time with the verse that starts out "Tell my father." It wasn't clear what came after "I've been 'buked." Then I came across a song called "I've been 'buked" and it looked like some of the words were a good match.

The verse about choosing my seat starts at minute 2:49. It's a powerful statement-- so heartbreaking someone singing about the train to heaven would have to feel anxious about choosing where to sit on the train to heaven.

The Staple Singers did other versions of the song without that verse. I guess they changed the song with the times.

I have a question about the verse that begins "Whoa, the river". Is there something significant about a river where the evening sun never goes down? How does the part about being armed for battle tie into it?

Lol... I spent so much time on that song that I wanted to find somebody else who'd be interested. Thought maybe you might be...


[Lyrics for] I'm Coming Home (Tell Heaven)

Tell heaven
Now you tell heaven
I am coming
I’m coming on home
Oh, one day
Just tell my heaven, my heavenly king
Tell him, tell him that I’m coming on the morning train

Tell heaven
Whoa-oh, tell heaven
I am coming
Hey, I'll be at home one day
Tell heaven I’m coming on home one day

Tell my father
Now you tell father
I am coming
I’m coming on home
Oh, one day
Tell him I've been 'buked, Lord, I've been scorned
Yeah, I have been talked about, sure's you're born

Tell father
Whoa, whoa, tell father
I am coming
Yeah, I'll be at home one day
Tell father I'm coming on home one day

Whoa, the river
Lord knows the river
Where the sun
That evening sun
Will never go down
Cross on my shoulder, sword in my hand
I’m going down fighting in Jesus' name

Whoa, the river
Whoa, whoa, the river
Where the sun
That evening sun go down
Lord no, the sun will never go down

I'm gonna choose
Lord I'm gonna choose
Choose my seat
Gonna choose my seat
And sit down
Lord I'm gonna choose my seat and sit down
Gonna have my [...] from a starry crown
Then I'm gonna write my Lord a letter
Gonna tell him this world ain't getting no better
Then I'm gonna call him on my phone
Tell Jesus "I need you in my home"

Tell heaven
Yeah-ay tell heaven
I am coming
Hey, I'll be at home one day
Tell heaven I’m coming on home one day

Lord my burden
Lord knows my burden
Seems so heavy
So hard to bear
Hard to bear
Lord knows my burdens seem hard to bear
Lord when I get to heaven I got a crown to wear

Whoa, my burden
Whoa-oh, my burden
Seems so heavy
Lord knows so hard to bear
You know my burden seems hard to bear

Tell my mother
Now you tell mother
I am coming
I’m coming on home
Oh, one day
Tell, tell my mother now don’t she cry
She'll know her little child was born to die

Tell mother
Whoa-oh, tell mother
I am coming
Hey, I'll be at home one day
Tell mother I’m coming on home one day

I haven't been to heaven but I've been told
That streets in heaven, they shone like gold

Tell heaven
Whoa-oh, tell heaven
I am coming
Hey, I'll be at home one day
Tell heaven I’m coming on home one day
-snip-
Additions to and corrections for this transcription are welcome.

Here's my response to Amy Shacklett's question: "I have a question about the verse that begins "Whoa, the river". Is there something significant about a river where the evening sun never goes down? How does the part about being armed for battle tie into it?"

"I'm not sure about the line that you asked about unless it was a reference to heaven and people needing to battle satan in this life on earth."...

In a later email Amy "tweaked" her transcription with some additional "Whoas" and wrote "For some reason what I said the other day just popped into my head... the part about somebody feeling anxious about choosing where to sit on the train to heaven. Using the word "anxious" was totally lame. It's ridiculous that the place where somebody sat would ever have been an issue. Mavis sings it like there's no doubt whatsoever that she'll be sitting where she wants."

However, recall that in her earlier email to me Amy Shacklett wrote "This version of the song was released as a single in 1956, very soon after Rosa Parks refused to move. It was released on the album "Uncloudy Days" in 1959."

Perhaps in addition to that nod to Rosa Parks, it's likely that the "choose my seat" lyrics in this version of The Staples Singers' "I'm Coming Home" were a "floating line" from the well known African American Spiritual "Plenty Good Room":

Plenty good room
Plenty good room
Plenty good room
Plenty good room
In my Father's kingdom
Plenty good room
Plenty good room
Choose your seats and sit down.
-snip-
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/08/rev-james-cleveland-plenty-good-room.html for a pancocojams post on that song as sung by the Reverend James Cleveland.

"Gospelized Spirituals" is my term for Spirituals that are arranged and sung in a Gospel style. Instead of a gospelized Spiritual, The Staple Singers' "I'm Coming Home" ("Tell Heaven") is a Gospel song that includes lines (lyrics) from several Spirituals along with other lyrics - and the soulful "Whoa oh" interjection which is an optional addition to those lyrics.

In addition to the "Plenty Good Room" Spiritual, here are the titles of two other Spiritual which have lines (lyrics) in this version of the Gospel song "I'm Coming Home":

"I've Been 'Buked (And I've Been Scorned"

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"Plenty Good Room" [the line: "choose your seat and sit down"]

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"Good News" [the verse: "I haven't been to heaven but I've been told/ That streets in heaven, they shone like gold". This is a floating verse that is also found in some other Spirituals]

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If you recognize other lines from Spirituals that are found in this song, please add them in the comment section below. Thanks!

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