Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If I get to heaven before you do, I'll cut a hole and pull you through

Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University circa 1870

Jerry Garcia

One of my favorite genres of music that we rarely hear anymore is African American Spiritual music. Soul combined with gospel, percussion, and lyrics emphasizing the importance of hope, have the ability to make us all feel connected in a way that no other music can. One of these all time classics, covered here by Jerry Garcia, is Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The first recorded version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot was performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in 1909, but the original song was written by Wallis Willis. Willis was a Choctaw freedman in the old indian territory in 1862, and was known for writing songs with messages to slaves in the underground railroad. These songs contributed to the movement that bolstered slaves' perseverance and moral in their brutal escape from the South to the North. In this example, Willis was inspired by the Red River, which reminded him of the River Jordan and the prophet Elijah being taken to heaven in a chariot driven by angels. Swing Low Sweet Chariot and it's beautiful hymn would not exist if not for the ear of Alexander Reid, who heard Wallis Willis perform these songs and ran to transcribe the lyrics and melodies. Reid then sent the music to The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, and thus the song survives today.

Enjoy! and happy Friday ...

Jerry Garcia

One of my favorites by The Band

So classic

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