The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #39466   Message #560526
Posted By: wysiwyg
28-Sep-01 - 03:10 AM
Thread Name: Lyr/Chords Req: Trouble of the World
Well, your problem is complicated, and I have not heard the Mahalia Jackson version of this.

The "song" may be in the public domain, but the arrangement of it-- that lets us see and hear it in our time-- is almost surely not. That is because anyone putting it in a book today either copyrights their arrangement of it or copyrights the book itself. (An exception is the CyberHymnal-- they make arrangements of their own in MIDI and do not copyright them. This song ain't in there though!

Determining if the origin of a particular version is authentically reproduced from slavery times (to establish age) is another problem. First, the variants in accepted usage at the time were numerous. Second, the ability of nearly-always-white collectors to capture the dialect was limited. Third, collectors' willingness to perpetuate the dialect they heard was slight in some cases, and got more slight as time passed and variants were handed down orally or in print. Fourth, when these were created (which would have started the public-domain-clock running), the singers made up verses on the spot more often than not, so no version is really "the" original, except the one the person sang when s/he was the first person to think of these words and this tune (whatever tune we are talking about).

The tunes also varied. *G*

The problem you seem to be laying out is, can anyone identify what arrangement Mahalia Jackson used, and then can anyone determine whether it was an arrangement so old THEN that it would now be un the public domain. And then you would need to show that your own application of the arrangement is faithful to the printed, now-public-domain arrangement, and free of imitation of her embellishments... because those would have been HER arrangement, and probably protected in theory if not in law, by rules about reproducing her work.

IMO your best bet is going to be to show that this is indeed a song of the right age, and that you are arranging it yourself or have acquired it from someone who created an arrangement for you that they did not then copyright.

Or, just do it, listing it as a traditional negro spiritual, and/or create your own precise words and tune that are YOURS.

What are you planning on doing with it, anyway? And how soon do you need to deal with the copyright problem?

The following is a version I think you can safely say is "old enough." It was collected by someone knowledgable and responsible, who intended to create an anthology of songs from that era. But it comes from a copyrighted book now in print, originally published in 1940 and now published by Dover.

I can do an arrangement based on the words below, if melody-only will suffice. But I do not know if it is the same melody you are trying to approximate.

There MAY be a version in some archived sheet music I could dig up-- but not if you need it REAL quick.

Please tell us more, here, about your plan to use the song, AND e-mail me if you would like a tune file.



Traditional Negro Spiritual

Soon-a will be done with the trouble of this world,
Soon-a will be done with the trouble of this world,
Soon-a will be done with the trouble of this world,
Going to live with God.

Come my brother and go with me
Come my brother and go with me
Come my brother and go with me
Let King Jesus make you free.

When I get to heav'n I will sing and tell
When I get to heav'n I will sing and tell
When I get to heav'n I will sing and tell
How I did shun both death and hell.

SOURCE: American Negro Songs, 230 Folk Songs and Spirituals, Religious and Secular. John W. Work, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY 1998. Orig. pub. Crown Publishers, NY, 1940. ISBN 0-486-40271-1.