The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #19551   Message #1467927
Posted By: Azizi
22-Apr-05 - 09:12 AM
Thread Name: Gospel Origin-Civil Rights & Labor Songs
Subject: RE: Gospel Origin-Civil Rights & Labor Songs
In the junior [student] NAACP branch that I was in the early 1960's [Atlantic City, New Jersey] we sung "I woke up this mornin with my mind STAYED on freedom" the same way Rolfyboy6 noted in his post dated 16 Jan 02 - 01:24 AM.

And I would like to publicly thank Rolfyboy6 and others at Mudcat [you know who you are] who risking their lifes and limbs participating in Civil Rights sit-ins, ride-ins, marches, and picket line demonstrations.

In Atlantic City, New Jersey we sung that song and others in support of those who were actually 'fighting' for our rights-and working to make the USA be the best it could be..

In a sense you could say that we sung Civil Rights songs as folk songs, though we would have vehemently rejected that categorization.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that Civil Rights songs are totally unknown to most of today's African American children, youth, and adults who didn't live through that time. I'm sad to say that
I would expect that real surveys of this population would confirm my personal experiences that most contemporary Black people in the USA have no knowledge of these songs.

So for the record, here are a couple of other Civil Rights songs that I remember that may have been based on spirituals or gospel songs [Sorry if these are posted on Mudcat somewhere else]:

"Keep Your Eye On The Prize"

verse 1
Paul and Silas bound in jail
with no money to forgo their bail
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on
hold on- [optional repeat]

Hold on
Hold on *
Keep your eye
on the prize
and hold on
hold on.

*"on" is elongated sounding like "au-au-aun"

I vauguely remember another verse that went something like
one and one they make two
tell you want I'm gonna do
Keep my eye on the prize
and hold on.
Hold on

I also remember that we added this floating verse that is often found in spirituals that we sang in church:

If religion was a thing
that money could buy
the rich would live
and the poor would die.
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on.
hold on.

I can't remember if these other floating verses were actually sung with this song, but I automatically added them in my mind:

Went to the valley
but I didn't go to stay
my soul got happy
and I stayed all day
Keep your eyes etc.

If you don't believe
I been redeemed
just follow me down
to Jordan's stream
Keep your eyes etc.


The "I went to the valley" couplet is probably based on the "I went to the river/but I couldn't get across/paid 5 dollars for an old grey horse" ante-bellum African American floating verse that was used in religious and non-religious songs.

One common refrain to that song was:
Poor mourner {mona}
You will be free
when the Good Lord sets you free.

So it is fitting that "I went to the river" was adapted and used as a Civil Rights song.