Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Five Examples Of "Guide My Feet While I Run This Race" (lyrics and comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases five arrangements of the song "Guide My Feet" (While I Run This Race). This song was originally sung as an African American Spiritual, but is also arranged and sung as a Gospel. "Guide My Feet" was also been sung as a United States civil rights protest song in the 1960s.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thank to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

(African American Spiritual, composer unknown)

1. Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

2. Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

3. Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

4. I'm your child while I run this race.
I'm your child while I run this race.
I'm your child while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

5. Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

6. Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race,
for I don't want to run this race in vain!

One of the characteristics of African American Spirituals is that the lyrics, the order of verses, and the length of the song's performance weren't fixed. Therefore, renditions of that song were likely never the same.

I've also heard choirs sing "Guide my tongue while I run this race"."

"Guide My Feet" is a staple of church choirs, folk and gospel artists because of its message — a humble plea for divine guidance during the race of life...

Some few days after the [Boston, Massachusetts] bombing two local ministers led an informal service at the makeshift memorial in Copley Square. They led the gathering crowd in singing the "Guide My Feet" spiritual. Suddenly I realized that all these years I’ve been singing the wrong words. They sang the right words, “Guide my feet, I don’t want to run this race in vain” versus my version, “Guide my feet, I don’t want to run this race alone.” But, whatever the words, "not in vain" or "not alone," I think both sentiments capture the spirit of this year’s marathoners, focused on the journey and not the destination. So when the runners begin their 26-mile trek, I’ll be singing my song for them in full-throated fervor. And celebrating a Boston Stronger."
"Guide My Feeet" is also listed as a freedom song (a civil rights protest song) in Lest We Forget, Vol. 3: Sing For Freedom
Various Artists FW05488
"Songs played a large role in the movement to close the racial divide in America during the 1960s, and prayers, chants, sermons, and shouts were also fundamental to this task. This collection of freedom songs was recorded during "The Sing for Freedom Workshop"—a remarkable event that brought together the best of freedom singers to share the history of this tradition, better organize the freedom song movement, and enrich an already powerful repertoire of song.

Year of Release 1980
Record Label: Folkways Records
Source : Archive Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Credits Produced by Guy Carawan ; Produced by Highlander Research and Education Center (Knoxville, Tenn.)"

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube with the oldest dated posts presented first.

Example #1: lord guide my feet while i run this race(mom&sisters)


Ronald Dennis, Uploaded on Apr 11, 2008

My two sister and mom,soon to you tube will be my whole family

Example #2: Guide My Feet

LukusJerrod, Uploaded on Mar 8, 2009

First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn Choir at NYU, 2009

Example #3: First Bethany MBC; 'Lord Guide My Feet, While I Run This Race"...Rudy Copeland

firstbethanyMBC, Uploaded on Jun 21, 2009

First Bethany MBC; Gregory D. McClain Sr., Pastor

Example #4: "Guide My Feet"- MBC Men's Chorus

MBCWorshipService, Uploaded on May 1, 2010

Calvin M. Blackwell, Sr., Michael E. Cundiff, Sr. and Thomas Powell- Soloists; The MBC Music Ministry Honors the Memories of Mrs. Inez M. Holley; Friday, April 30, 2010; Messiah Baptist Church, 210 Congress Street, Bridgeport CT, Jonathan Q. Berryman, Director of Music. Visit us at;

Example #5: Guide My Feet, Lord

Lyric Fest, Published on Nov 12, 2013
Guide my feet, Lord - Arr. Jacqueline Hairston

Lisa Daltirus with Laura Ward, Piano

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  1. I go with #2 for your choice. Am I right?

    1. Thanks your question, Ina Hughs.

      Responding to your question made me realize that for some reason I hadn't added an Example #3 to this post.

      I've added that video and it's the rendition that I like the best for this song, although it's much jazzier than what I remember singing in church when I learned that Gospel song.

      Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for posting this. It's helped some musicians I work with get their head around the variety of ways to sing the song. Thanks, too, for #3!

    1. You're welcome, Mike.

      I'm glad this post was helpful. I don't know how I missed posting an Example #3 the first time around. :o)

  3. Guide my feet takes you to higher heights. Thank you much for sharing this's a song hat will never ever grow old.

    1. You're welcome. fanpet.

      I agree. "Guide My Feet" is a song that will always speak to people's hearts and souls.

  4. Hi!

    I'm a young choral director looking to perform Clayton White's arrangement of this song with one of my high school groups this year. Love the song, thanks for the varied performance videos.

    I am wondering if you know about any additional or secret meanings behind this text. I know that often times these spirituals may have carried secret messages or meanings that the slave masters would not catch on to so that the slaves could communicate and share in their song. I could easily see this text having a meaning about running away and escaping, but I don't want to assume what I don't know so I thought I just might ask and see if you might be able to help me out a bit. Any insight you have for me would be awesome and I would so appreciate it. Thanks for any help you can give, and sorry if I sound confused or uninformed, I am just trying to learn. :) Thank you!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment and question Patrick MCGuire. It's great that your high school choir will be performing this song, particularly since it seems to me that many school choirs in the USA rarely include religious songs in their repertoire. (I noticed that I assumed you were in the USA and that might not be true. My apologies for that assumption).

      With regard to the song "Guide My Feet", although this song is categorized as an African American Spiritual, I'm not sure that that categorization is correct as I don't know if a song by that name or a similarly worded song is included in any late 19th or early 20th century published collections of Spirituals or whether that song (or a song with similar words) is mentioned by any late 19th or early 20th century writers.

      "Guide My Feet" has the same tune as the religious song "Do Lord Remember Me". Perhaps someone added different words to the tune of "Do Lord Remember Me". Here's some information about the song "Do Lord Remember Me" from
      "The song "Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do Remember Me"
      Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by donna, Apr 5, 2016.
      "This song has been known as an old time spiritual . However, it has been actually credited to Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) who was author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". Julia was known as a speaker, a promoter of women's rights, an author, and spent her life as an outspoken proponent of several good causes."...

      Also, indicates that "Do, Lord, Remember Me" was
      First recording by Garner Bros. (January 9, 1925)"

      Also, Patrick McGuire, with regard to your question whether the song "Guide My Feet While I Run This Race" had any secret meaning, even if this song is actually a Spiritual (which I doubt), all African American Spirituals didn't have secret (or coded) meanings. If a particular song always was a signal that enslaved people were planning to try to escape, then any time it was sung people would be on alert for someone's or several people's attempted escape. Since trying to escape slavery was a difficult venture that had dire consequences including being sold into even harsher slavery, or amputation of one's leg, or even death, anyone who was planning to attempt an escape from slavery wouldn't want to advertise that planned attempt.

      Thanks again for your comment and best wishes to your choir.

    2. This is FANTASTIC information, thank you for the insight! I am sharing this perspective with my choirs today and we are performing on October 16th. Best wishes to you, and thanks again!

    3. Hello, Patrick McGuire.

      I appreciate your comments. It's good to read positive feedback about this post- Sometimes I'm not sure if anyone is reading these posts. But I learn so much by doing this research and sharing it so it's all good -as the young folks say or at least used to say :o)

      Will you be posting your choirs' of this song on YouTube? If so I can add a link here.

      I corrected some typos in this post as a result of your latest comment.

      Thanks again and best wishes!