Thursday, September 16, 2021

African American Gospel Song "Trampin (Tryna Make Heaven My Home)" with YouTube Examples, Lyrics, & Comments

Rev. J.M. Gates - Topic, Nov 8, 2014

Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises
Tramping To Make Heaven My Home (107093) · Rev. J.M. Gates Rev. J.M Gates Vol. 2 (September 1926) ℗ 1996 Document Records Released on: 2005-07-05 ****

Viola James & Congregration - Tryin' To Make Heaven My Home

TheBWJohnson,  Sept. 14, 2011

Southern Journey, Vol. 3: 61 Highway Mississippi. The Independence Church Congregation recorded in Tyro, MS 9/23/1959

Edited by Azizi Powell This pancocojams post showcases sound files of two early twentieth century renditions of the Gospel song "Trampin (Tryna Make Heaven My Home").

The definition of the word "tramping" ("trampin) is given in this post along with the lyrics to these two renditions of "Trampin". The definition of the word "tryna" is given in this post along with a definition for the phrase "knee way journey" that is found in some versions of this song. One lyric version of the Gospel song "Trampin" is included in this post along with selected online comments about this song. The content of this post is presented for religious, cultural, and linguistic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners. Thanks to all those who are featured in these sound files and thanks to the early collectors of this Gospel song.
-snip- *The word "tryna" is usually given as "tryin" or "trying" .However, it's my belief that "early" renditions of "Trampin" used the African American Vernacular English word "tryna".
Click for the related pancocojams post entitled "YouTube Examples Of Traditional Arrangements Of The African American Spiritual "Trampin"". That post is Part II of a three part pancocojams series on the song "Trampin (Tryin To Make Heaven My Home".


(US also tromp)

to walk, especially long distances or with heavy steps:

to tramp through the woods/undergrowth

We spent a week tramping the streets of San Francisco, looking for movie locations.


roam (MOVE AROUND) trudge"


Well I’m trampin
Lord I’m trampin
tryna make heaven my home
Trampin trampin

tryna make heaven my home

it’s a knee way journey
but I’m trampin

tryna make heaven my home
It’s a knee way journey
but I’m trampin
tryna make heaven my home
These lyrics are my transcription from the sound file that is given as #2 in this post.  Additions and corrections are welcome.

From - "trying to"
"Tryna" is a vernacular form of the words "trying to". 

Since at least the late 20th century, this Gospel song's title and lyrics are most often converted to more standard American English as "Tramping" (Trying To Make Heaven My Home)" or Trampin Tryin To Make Heaven My Home". For example, notice the title for the sound file given as Example #2 in this post.
The earlier title and lyrics for this song are "Trampin (Tryna Make Heaven My Home)"  Some titles and lyrics hypercorrect "tryna" by using the words "tryna to".

My guess is that a "knee-way journey" means a difficult journey where a person's knees are likely to "give out" (become unstable, swollen, and/or otherwise painful)..

Numbers added for referencing purposes only.

Excerpt #1

1. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Tryin' to Make Heaven My Home
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 04:37 PM

Many versions of "Poor Pilgrim." See thread 42490. Listed as "Tossed and Driven" in Randolph, a fine version as well.

"Trampin', Trampin'," is similar in some respects, and is sung mostly in black churches, while "Poor Pilgrim" is a white gospel song.

"Trampin'" is included in "Songs of Zion" as a spiritual, a traditional song with some copyrighted arrangements, which should be sung "slowly, with a firm beat," in the arrangement by J. Jefferson Cleveland and Verolga Nix (copyrighted 1981, Abingdon Press).

"Songs of Zion" (Abdingdon Press, 1981-1982) grew out of the "Consultation on the Black Church," held in 1973, where it was recommended that the Section on Worship develop a songbook from the Black religious tradition to be made available to United Methodist churches.

The version of "Trampin'" in "Songs of Zion" has the verse "I've never been to heaven but I been tol', dat de streets up dere am paved wid gol', as well as "If you git dere befo' I do, Tell all ma friends I'm coming too."

The editors insist that spirituals should be sung in dialect, and give instructions."

2. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Tryin' to Make Heaven My Home
From: Burke
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 07:05 PM

" "Tryin' to make heaven my home" is also on Lomax's "Southern Journey. Vol. 3, 61 Highway Mississippi. It's recorded in a black church sung by: Viola James & Congregation. Lomax thought it was of 20th cent. origin."

3. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Tryin' to Make Heaven My Home
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 07:32 PM

"It seems that the verse goes back to white gospel of the 19th c.

I doubt that it ever was a spiritual, in the slave and plantation song sense.

Burke, I believe that Lomax was correct as far as Negro use of the song is concerned. It did not appear in the songs collected by Fenner in the 19th c. from Negro sources (the Cleveland Index is in error), but was added in the 1926 edition by Dett, and there it is noted as collected by him ("I'm striving to make it my home"). Nor does it seem to have been found in any of the books on Negro song or spirituals of the 19th c.

I will post Dett's version in the thread on Poor Pilgrim."
The referent "Negro" is no longer used since at least the mid 20th century. Except for quoting historical material, it's now considered offensive to refer to people as "Negro". 
This comment from GUEST, Q refers to the custom of singing "Trampin" with the song "Poor Pilgrim". That song's title is often given as "I Am A Poor Pilgrim Of Sorrow". That song is also known as "I Heard Of A City Called Heaven". Click for GUEST, Q's comments and other comments about this song. Here's a portion of one comment that GUEST, Q posted on 20 Oct 03 - 06:00 PM in that "Poor Pilgrim" discussion thread (along with lyrics)

" "Poor Pilgrim" appears in Dett, Religious Folk-songs of the Negro, and is considered by some to be a spiritual (so listed in the Cleveland index). Its frequency in white gospel, and parallels with "Wayfaring Stranger" suggest to me that its origin is in the white churches (Old Baptist, Sacred harp, old white songsters)."....

Excerpt #2
From 61 Highway Mississippi The Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey Volume 3 Delta Country Blues, Spirituals, Work Songs & Dance Music

"Rounder CD 1703

 A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange

by Virginia Wagner


"In the fall of 1959, Alan Lomax traveled throughout the state of Mississippi and recorded the songs contained on Volume 3 of the Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey. Calling it "the land where blues began," he recorded the various styles of African-American music he found there in the 1930s. Discovering a wellspring of musical talent, he returned several times over the next twenty years, visiting churches, picnics, penitentiaries and private homes so that these songs, and indeed, the musicians who sang and played them, would not be lost to time. And he richly succeeded.


There are two spirituals on volume three: God's Unchanging Hand with Anderson Burton leading the congregation at Independence Church in Tyro, Mississippi, and Trying to Make Heaven My Home, which was led by Viola James. Both songs are of 20th century origin and are typical of the black country Baptist churches. This hand-clapping, joyful, swaying music is still a staple of today's black churches, and certainly puts my Catholic parish to shame vocally (we're still choking over holding hands during the Our Father!)."...

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