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Lyr Req/Add: I, John (Saw a Mighty Number)

GUEST,David Neale 07 Jul 03 - 08:07 PM
GUEST,Q 07 Jul 03 - 08:34 PM
GUEST,Q 07 Jul 03 - 08:38 PM
Joe Offer 07 Jul 03 - 09:08 PM
GUEST,Q 07 Jul 03 - 09:32 PM
GUEST,Q 07 Jul 03 - 09:44 PM
masato sakurai 07 Jul 03 - 09:47 PM
Joe Offer 07 Jul 03 - 11:01 PM
GUEST,Q 08 Jul 03 - 12:30 AM
GUEST,Q 08 Jul 03 - 12:41 AM
GUEST,David Neale 08 Jul 03 - 04:50 AM
GUEST,David Neale 08 Jul 03 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Q 08 Jul 03 - 03:34 PM
Stewie 08 Jul 03 - 10:18 PM
masato sakurai 08 Jul 03 - 10:39 PM
michaelr 09 Jul 03 - 02:46 AM
GUEST,kari 19 Jan 09 - 10:51 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Jan 09 - 11:37 PM
GUEST 04 May 10 - 08:58 PM
GUEST,Rock 'n' roots 30 Aug 10 - 06:21 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Aug 10 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Rock'n'roots 09 Jul 11 - 11:24 PM
GUEST 30 Nov 17 - 02:26 PM
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Subject: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST,David Neale
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 08:07 PM

In 1972 Elvis Presley recorded a gospel called "I, John." Trying to locate the origins of this song, I find a recording on the King label from 1962 by the Mighty Faith Increasers. Their number was called "I John Saw A Mighty Number." I assume it is the same song. The number seems to have been written by Johnson, McFadden and Brooks (though Jorgenen's "Elvis, A Life In Music" indicates Gaither).

Can anyone tell me the true origins of the song and provide the original lyrics (not those used by Elvis), please? Also if someone could relate it to a biblical passage, I'd be grateful -- I suspect somewhere in Revelations.

Many thanks.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 08:34 PM

"John Saw a Mighty Number," "John Saw De Holy Number," etc., etc., is found as a Negro Spiritual in several versions from the first collections of the 1870s. The song entered the white gospel churches as well. See the Spirituals Permathread. I believe versions are in the DT and Forum discussions. I will check threads and post one or two if it is not there.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 08:38 PM

For a start, see thread 41185: John Saw


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Subject: ADD: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) (Elvis Presley)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:08 PM

Hi - I stole this from here (click). Seems to be a mix of a number of interesting songs, taken from a number of apocalyptic Scripture passages, mostly from various passages Revelation. I'll come up with the traditional quote from the King James translation of Revelation in a moment. But the song is kind of a summary of the whole book, which is a description of a vision of the end times. Many different parts of the description begin with "I, John, saw..." I can't find the exact "mighty number" quote, although both chapters 7 and 14 refer to the 144,000 who were sealed or chosen. We Catholics don't spend a whole lot of time on the Book of Revelation. I was supposed to teach Revelation in the Fall of 2000, but I took a 6-week vacation tied to the Getaway instead.
-Joe Offer-


I, John
(Johnson / Mcfadden / Brooks)


Oh well


* I John saw a mighty number
(A-movin') way up in the middle of the air
Oh well, I John saw a mighty number
(A-movin') way in the middle of the air


*Repeat

Well, there were three gates in the east
(And there were) three gates in the west (let me tell you 'bout)
Three gates in the north (Hallelujah! there were)
Three gates in the south


Well that makes twelve gates to the city
Oh square and wide (Hallelujah!)


* Repeat


Well, old John declared he saw a man
He had twelve bright stars in-a his right hand
Well, his eyes flashed fire like a burnin' sun
Old John got scared and he wanted to run


Well, he wanted to run but his feet wouldn't go
'Cause his conscience cuttin' like a two-edged sword
And he heard a voice that said: John, you take a look
And read what you see, and you write it in a book


He saw twelve angels in the east
(And there were) twelve angels in the west
(Hallelujah brother!) Twelve angels in the north
Twelve angels in the south


That's a total of forty-eight angels to the city
Oh square and wide (Hallelujah!)


* Repeat

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

(Rev. 21: 2)


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN SAW DE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSA
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:32 PM

Brown, North Carolina Folklore, song 539, collected in 1922, is related.

JOHN SAW DE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND

John saw de hundred and forty-four thousand (three times)
And I can't stay away.

I only have the music in vol. 5. There could be more to the song in vol. 3. Vol. 3 also has lyrics to "John Saw the Holy Number," but has no music for it.

A verse in Courlander, Negro Folk Music, U. S. A., seemms to join the song "John Saw" with Ezekiel and the wheel. It is in a long gospel piece about John the Baptist.

John done saw that number
Way in the middle of the air.
John done saw that number
Way in the middle of the air.
Ee-ay-hay-ay.

Another verse from the same song:

And John saw the number
Way in the middle of the air.
John done saw that number
Way in the middle of the air.
Cryin' how long, how long, how long my Lord, oh, how long.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:44 PM

Many years ago, before Elvis got popular, driving through East Texas and Louisiana, I used to hear his gospel songs on the radio. I often wondered if these recordings are still available because they were so different from the usual radio fare at the time.
Looks like there might be a few of the lyrics at that website.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: masato sakurai
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:47 PM

"Way up in the middle of the air" is a repeated line in the lyrics of "Ezekiel Saw The Wheel." The "three gates in the east" stanza is also in "Twelve Gates to the City." The biblical source is Revelation 21.

Recordings before WWII (according to Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943, 4th ed., Oxford) include:
John Saw -- Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (1943)
John Saw A Number -- Elder Curry (1930); Rev. J.M. Gates (1930)
John Saw Dat/That Number -- Louise Du Boise (1939); Vera Hall (1937); Dock Reed (1939, 1940); Robert Lee Robertson (1939)
John Done Saw That Holy Number -- Rev. M.L. Gipson (1927)
John Done Saw That Number -- Vera Hall (1939)


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 11:01 PM

I suppose most everything Elvis recorded is available on CD, including a lot that sould naver have been resurrected. Elvis had a great love for gospel singing, and he did a lot of it. I suppose some of his gospel is a bit sappy (or maybe very sappy), but there's a lot of it that I really like.
I suppose his recording of "Peace in the Valley" is the one that sticks with me.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: Lyr Add: HOW'D YOU KNOW YOUR NAME BEEN WRITTEN DOW
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 12:30 AM

According to Courlander, Revelation 21:12 states that 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes were chosen, 144,000 in all. An angel showed John the New City, which had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Lyr. Add: HOW'D YOU KNOW YOUR NAME BEEN WRITTEN DOWN?

How'd you know your name been written down? (twice)
On the wall, oh, it's been written down. (twice)
Oh the angel told me, been written down. (twice)
How'd you know your name been written down? (twice)
Well the Lord told me, been written down. (twice)
Be sure your name been written down. (twice)
On the wall in heaven been written down. (twice)
I know my name been written down. (twice)
On the wall in heaven been written down. (twice)
Ain't you glad your name been written down? (twice)

Harold Courlander, "Negro Folk Music, U. S. A.", 1963, p. 67-68, Sheet Music 13, p. 244-245


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 12:41 AM

John the Revelator and the book of the seven seals (or the seventh seal) may get mentioned here- see threads 5825, 12227, 12521.
Thread 5825 has the most information: Revelator


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,David Neale
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 04:50 AM

Many, many thanks for so many responses in such a short time! Looks good, with som much new information, too! Joe Offer, the lyrics are those used by Elvis "himselvis" and I don't know if these are the "original" -- are there indeed any "original" lyrics to the song? Perhaps it is one of those songs that has been handed down and whose origins are lost -- that's my quest! Anyway, will go through all the other responses, too, and perhaps I'll find the answer.

Again, thank you all very much!

David


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,David Neale
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 05:00 AM

To GUEST,Q: Elvis's gospel music has been collected on numerous CD compilations, the latest of which is a 3-CD "Peace In The Valley" set. However, I would recommend the 2-CD "Amazing Grace" compilation. Indeed, few non-fans know about this side of Elvis's singing career, and yet it is for his gospel music that he received his only Grammy Awards -- three of them.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the recommendations, David. I will look for the "Amazing Grace" set.
Most of these songs are rooted in old spiritual, gospel and shape note ancestry, and I doubt that you will ever find the first settings. They all have been modified by "the folk process."
The version by Elvis is, of course, his, regardlless of where his "public domain" inspiration came from.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: Stewie
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 10:18 PM

To add an earlier recording to the list posted above by Masato, the great Arizona Dranes recorded a version in Chicago on 17 June 1926 under the title 'John said he saw a number' [OK 8352]. Sarah Martin and R.M. Jones helped out on vocals.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: masato sakurai
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 10:39 PM

Thanks, Stewie. Arizona Dranes's complete works CD is released by Document (Click here, with sound clips).

~Masato


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: michaelr
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 02:46 AM

Oops -- I thought this was a thread by John from Hull... about the mighty number9.


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Subject: RE: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number) - Elvis
From: GUEST,kari
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 10:51 PM

It comes from revalations. It was everything God showed John about the future, and He wanted him to write about it. Read revalations


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Subject: Lyr. Add: John Saw de Number No Man Could Number
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 11:37 PM

JOHN SAW DE NUMBER NO MAN COULD NUMBER
Spiritual

1
John saw de number dat no man could number (3x)
Comin' up, comin' up on high.

2
John saw de hundred and forty-four thousand
Comin' up on high.

3
Tell John not to call de roll till I git dere
Sinner man you better believe.

Collected on Saint Helena Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina.
No. 55, Nicholas George Julius Ballanta-(Taylor), 1924, "Saint Helena Island Spirituals," Diploma Institute of Musical Art. Pub. G. Schirmer, Inc., New York.
(Ballanta-(Taylor) was from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and collected spirituals and studied their musical form for his thesis).


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST
Date: 04 May 10 - 08:58 PM

where do you get sheet music or chord progression for this song? thanks sc


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST,Rock 'n' roots
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 06:21 AM

Elvis Presley was either a gospel singer who sang the blues, or a blues singer who sang gospel. In either case, such songs, if they are authentic, are created through the "folk process" which means that each performer adds something of themselves to the song - sometimes a lot, sometimes just a bit. Elvis's radically transformed "Blue Moon of Kentucky" is the one you're likely to find in published sheet music, yet his version has an original verse to begin the song, a brisk R&B tempo, and many other significant alterations. The original waltz by Monroe is now relegated to history {though it's still the state song of Kentucky!}. And so on. Especially at Sun records, even on numbers that were either unreleased, pulled from release, or unpublished, Elvis had the creative freedom to reinvent music that he lost, by contract, to RCA. RCA instisted on "complete control" of the creative process. While they never quite got that, they certainly put the breaks on the young performer's creative development at a crucial stage.
Still, it was in gospel music and spirituals where he was most free to be as inventive as he chose {or to follow arrangements he loved}. This is why most people generally are familiar with his versions than earlier ones, which would probably dishearten Elvis.
I would say to just keep up your search: it's a great piece of music. As for other "Elvishimselvis"ed music {I loved that cute one when I saw it recently on some liner notes, too!) Another most intriguing number are his several very different versions of "Farther Along," a Sunday morning standard down south. His first version was said to be "dirgelike" in its slow, sad tempo, but they hadn't heard the last of it . . . One time, he actually "lined out" the song, which is a quite ancient technique in black spiritual singing, at first throwing the Sweet Inspirations, a black, female gospel group, totally off! At first they didn't seem to know what to do. After this, and a powerful version of Crouch's "Oh Happy Day," Elvis slyly remarked: "scared 'em!" The "Sweets" as they were known, were generally not southerners, but Elvis had attended genuine "Sanctified" church "revivals" and services as a 'tween in Tupelo, Miss. Sanctified churches are black, and he lived on what was then called "The Hill" in Tupelo, a black neighborhood with a few "white" houses generously so designated, by black landowners, for those whites who had been living in alleys and such - as were the Presleys. Though generally taunted and ostracized in school, he had friends at home, and was welcomed to sanctified revivals and services.
If anyone wants to know why Elvis Presley has such a vital place in American music, his unusual upbringing had much to with it.
If not for his contributions, I think few "mainstream" music fans would even KNOW of such songs. "Rock 'n' roll music," he said in 1968, "is really gospel, or rhythm and blues."


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 01:25 PM

I first heard Elvis on the radio, singing gospel songs, long ago when I was driving around LA, TX to GA. From outside the South, I had never heard those songs before, and his singing was impressive. I will never forget his singing, although my memory has lost the words.
Any recommendations on recordings of his early gospel singing?


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: I, John (Saw A Mighty Number)
From: GUEST,Rock'n'roots
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 11:24 PM

Well, there are several excellent compilations and each has a little "treat" or several so it isn't easy. I was hoping that a Lousiana Hayride recording of an acapella "Amazing Grace" might turn up but not yet. He would have been 19, maybe 20 at the time. That would be the first available . . .
A wonderful bluesy version of that song is on the big 70s box. Some interesting ad-libbed folk material can also be found on that box, along with his rewritten blues "Stranger In My Own Hometown." Very personal introspection.
As I said, each gospel collection offers something a little different and gospel material is scattered elsewhere. And all are representative of what is a cornerstone of American music: Elvis Presley's non-secular recordings.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: I, John (Saw a Mighty Number)
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Nov 17 - 02:26 PM

The song lyric's most direct quotes are taken from...

Revelation 1:v9-17
Revelation 7:v9
Revelation 19:v1
Revelation 21:v12-16


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