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Origins: Were You There (spiritual)

DigiTrad:
WERE YOU THERE


Joe Richman 07 Mar 04 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 07 Mar 04 - 07:12 PM
masato sakurai 07 Mar 04 - 08:50 PM
M.Ted 08 Mar 04 - 06:13 PM
GUEST 08 Mar 04 - 09:48 PM
Joe Richman 08 Mar 04 - 10:31 PM
M.Ted 09 Mar 04 - 06:19 PM
Joe Richman 09 Mar 04 - 11:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Dec 06 - 10:29 PM
Janie 16 Dec 06 - 10:36 PM
masato sakurai 17 Dec 06 - 12:03 AM
masato sakurai 17 Dec 06 - 12:09 AM
Joe Offer 17 Dec 06 - 01:22 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Dec 06 - 02:26 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Dec 06 - 10:27 PM
NormanD 19 Dec 06 - 07:43 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Dec 06 - 02:02 PM
NormanD 19 Dec 06 - 04:35 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Dec 06 - 06:06 PM
Genie 12 Apr 11 - 07:46 PM
Jim Dixon 14 Apr 11 - 03:02 PM
maple_leaf_boy 14 Apr 11 - 04:07 PM
JedMarum 27 Mar 12 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Mar 12 - 10:53 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Mar 12 - 04:24 PM
JedMarum 28 Mar 12 - 10:52 PM
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Subject: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: Joe Richman
Date: 07 Mar 04 - 07:03 PM

I have several gospel songbooks, and all of them seem to have different sets of chords for this song. Even transposing them into the same key has vastly different results. They seem to break down into two categories: Those with only one minor chord (fairly simple) and those with a whole lot of minor chords. I tend to favor the former over the latter, but I'd like some opinions. By the way, my instrument is 5 string banjo played clawhammer style. I think that the fewer minors sounds more "hillbilly". In G the minor is A minor. The other chords in the "simple" arrangement are D, D7 and C.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 07 Mar 04 - 07:12 PM

Can't recall the immediate source....but an ol liner says....
In the field of blues the Gospel's flat their fifths....and the Blues drink them.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: masato sakurai
Date: 07 Mar 04 - 08:50 PM

As far as I know, THIS (The New England Magazine, vol. 25, Issue 6, Feb 1899, p. 714) is the earliest record of "Were You There?" where there were no chords indicated.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Mar 04 - 06:13 PM

Here are my chords, based on a couple of similar recordings that I like(Harry Belafonte and Charlie Rich)they do it in F, which is a bad key for banjo--

||GG/C D7/GG/GG/
GG/GG/A7A7/D7 D7/
G G/B7 B7/Em Em/C C/
Am Am/(the extra measure echoes the word "tremble")
G E7/A7 D7/G C-Cm/C D7||

These recordings have a gospel/ rock feel to them, and the chord changes reflect that--I also have heard a very nice Johnny Cash/June Carter rendition that uses simpler changes--three chords in the key of D, and almost the same as you'd play "Careless Love"--that probably is the way you'd want to do it--


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Mar 04 - 09:48 PM

I'd like to thank Gargoyle and masato for their comments. I got a good laugh out of Gargoyle's comment, although the kind of Gospel Gargoyle is referring to sounds like the urban Gospel music of the Mahalia Jackson sort, not the Country Gospel I'm thinking of. And the old lyrics in the file masato linked to are great.

M Ted, your comments are exactly what I was looking for. I think the version I worked out is similar to what you mentioned as the Cash/Carter-Cash version, except that I use the Am chord in the "tremble" section. It's the other minor chords I'm dropping. So I guess that's one vote for simplicity.

Thanks,

Joe


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: Joe Richman
Date: 08 Mar 04 - 10:31 PM

Oops, forgot to reset the ol' cookie!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouThere
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Mar 04 - 06:19 PM

I don't think they even go to the minor on "tremble", it sounds like they actually go to the dominant (they are in D, so it is A7) for an odd little bit of warbling by June before the line "Sometimes it causes me" and pop back to the D, which they hold onto in a very modal sounding fashion through the "tremble" thing--

The minor chord doesn't really need to be there--it just highlights the movement of the melody line--


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: opinion wanted; Chords to Were YouT
From: Joe Richman
Date: 09 Mar 04 - 11:25 PM

In G that would be D7. Except the book I used has a C chord there ("sometimes"). On the banjo in G tuning, D7 has two notes in common with A minor and C has three, so that's why it works well. (The pivotal note in the chords is C... on the first fret of the second string in a C, D7 or A minor chord.) I'm not trying to sound like the Cashes since I haven't heard them do this song. On the "tremble" I am going between open G and A minor.

Thread closed temporarily because it's been a target for a heavy barrage of Spam. If you have something to add to the discussion, contact me and I'll reopen it. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 10:29 PM

The usual form of this well-known spiritual is in the DT, but the following variant and the Hampton version are worth noting.

Lyr. Add: I WAS THERE WHEN HE WALKED IN GALILEE

1.
I uz dere win he walk'd in Galilee;
I uz dere win he walk'd in Galilee,
Oh, sometimes my trubbles make me trimble, trimble,
I uz dere win he walk'd in Galilee.
2.
I uz dere win dey nailed 'im to der cross.
I uz dere win dey nailed 'im to der cross,
Oh-o! how it makes me sadder, sadder,
win I think how dey nailed 'im to der cross.
3.
I uz dere win dey took 'im down, took 'im,
I uz dere win dey took 'im down,
Oh-o! how hit makes miah spiriat trimble,
win r'calls how dey took 'im down.

"Camp-meeting hymn,' sung by a laundress, Maryland. Coll. Mary Walker Finley Speers, MD. With score, 4/4.
JAFL, 1913, vol. 26, p. 190.

Lyr. Add: WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD?

Were you there when they crucufied my Lord?
Were you there?
Were you there when yhey crucified my Lord?
Were you there?
Oh! sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
2.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
3.
Were you there when they pierced Him in the side?
4.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
5.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Transcribed by R. Nathaniel Dett, p. 106.
Dett, R. N., 1927, "Religious Folk-Songs of the Negro as Sung at Hampton Institute. (Version added to Fenner, T. P., Cabin and Plantation Songs as Sung by the Hampton Students, in the 1927 edition.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Janie
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 10:36 PM

Thanks, Q!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: masato sakurai
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 12:03 AM

Probably, the William Barton version (in "Recent Negro Melodies," The New England Magazine, Vol. 25, Issue 6, Feb. 1899, p. 714?jis the earliest printing of it, which was reprinted in Barton's Old Plantation Hymns (1899).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: masato sakurai
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 12:09 AM

The Barton version in "RECENT NEGRO MELODIES" (p. 714):

There are some of the more recent plantation hymns which have added an element of culture without diminishing religious fervor. One of the best of these is "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" It dwells on the details of the crucifixion, and the separate stanzas add only a single line each to the song. It is a tender and beautiful hymn, the climax of its effect depending largely on the hold and slur on the exclamation "Oh !" with which the third line begins, and the repetition and expression of the word "tremble! tremble! tremble!"

WERE YOU THERE?

1. Where you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)
   Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
   O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
   Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2. Were you there when they nail'd him to the cross? (Were you there?)
   Were you there when they nail'd him to the cross?
   O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
   Were you there when they nail'd him to the cross?

3. Were you there when they pierced him in the side? (Were you there?)
   Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
   O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
   Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

4. Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (Were you there?)
   Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
   O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
   Were you there when the sun refused to shine?


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Subject: Origins: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 01:22 AM

I wondered if every version of this siong has the distinctive four-to-six-note "O" that begins the chorus. It's in the 1899 version Masato linked to above.
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry:

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

DESCRIPTION: "Were you there when they crucified my Lord (x2), Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble; Were you there when...." "Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?" "...pierced him in the side?" "...the sun refused to shine...."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1899 (New England Magazine; see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: religious Jesus nonballad
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
BrownSchinhanV 768, "Was You There When They Crucified Jesus?" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Dett, p. 104, "Did You Hear How Dey Crucified My Lord?"; Dett pp. 106-106, App.VI, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? (Were You There?)" (3 texts, 3 tunes; p. 141 in the 1901 version; p. 141 in the 1909 version)
Barton, p. 40, "Were You There" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warren-Spirit, pp. 99-100, "Were You There?" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 367, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), p. 147, "Were You There?" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #11409
RECORDINGS:
Roy Acuff, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" (Columbia 20550, 1949)
Fisk Jubilee Singers, "Were You There?" (on Fisk01)
Minnie Gracie Gadson, "Were You Dere?" (on USSeaIsland03)
Roland Hayes, "Were You There" (Columbia 69812-D, 1939)
Uncle Dave Macon, "Was You There When They Took My Lord Away" (OKeh 45522, 1931; rec. 1930)
Wade Mainer, "Were You There" (Bluebird B-8273, 1939)

NOTES: Jim Dixon points out to me that "Lyrics and music to WERE YOU THERE? appeared in an article "Recent Negro Melodies" by William E. Barton, D.D., in The New England Magazine,, Vol. XIX, No. 6, February, 1899, page 714. It was the third in a series of articles; the two earlier ones were called 'Old Plantation Hymns' and 'Hymns of the Slave and the Freedman.' Barton doesn't name a specific source for WERE YOU THERE? but he mentions the Jubilee Singers in the earlier two articles.
"All three articles were collected and published that same year as a book called Old Plantation Hymns but the book seems to be nothing more than offprints from the magazine, with the page numbers changed. The book doesn't credit the magazine nor vice versa.
'The annual reports of the American Missionary Association show that the Jubilee Singers sang WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD? at five consecutive annual meetings, 1898 to 1902. So it seems likely that the Jubilee Singers were Barton's source."
All three sources above can be found on Google Books. The information is also found in Marilyn Kay Stulken, Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, Fortress Press, 1981, p. 192. - RBW
Barton is a reprint of the articles cited by Jim Dixon. - BS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: FSWB367A

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Here are the Digital Tradition lyrics (needed corrections underlined):

WERE YOU THERE

Were you there when they crucified my Lord, were you there,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord, were you there
Oh...
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble
Where you there when they crufified my Lord, were you there?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross? etc.

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

@religion @spiritual @American
filename[ WEREYOU
TUNE FILE: WEREYOU
CLICK TO PLAY
RG


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 02:26 PM

William Arms Fisher, the African-American composer who studied with Anton Dvorak, published books of scores for Oliver Ditson Company, which were influential in versions sung in choir and concert.
W. A. Fisher, "Seventy Negro Spirituals," 1926, published a full score for "Were You There (The Crucified)," pp. 195-197. Oh! is four note, mezza voce for voice (col voce for piano accomp.). Oliver Ditson Co.

The Hampton Institute, as transcribed by R. N. Dett, shows the Oh! as two note, rising. (Ref. in previous post)

Johnson and Johnson, "The Books of American Negro Spirituals," II, pp. 136-137, has the Oh! as four note.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 10:27 PM

Nineteenth Century collection:

Lyr. Add: WUZ YO DAR WHEN DEY CRUCIFIED DE LORD?

Wuz yo dar when dey crucified de Lord?
Wuz yo dar when dey crucified de Lord?
O sometimes it causes me to
Tremble, tremble, tremble,
Wuz yo dar when dey crucified de Lord?

Wuz yo dar when dey nailed him to de cross? (2x)
O sometimes etc.

Wuz yo dar when de blood cum trickling down?
etc.

Wuz yo dar when dey laid him in de tomb?
etc.

Wuz yo dar when dey rolled de stone away?
etc.

Wuz yo dar when he wore de starry crown?
etc.

Collected by Mrs. E. M. Backus, Columbia Co., Georgia.
JAFL, 1897, Vol. 10, No. 37, p. 116.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: NormanD
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 07:43 AM

What language are they supposed to be in? Is it old English? Or is it that somewhat antiquated Afro-American dialect formerly known as "Gwine"?

Norman


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 02:02 PM

Odd how 'gwine' is attributed only to African-Americans. It was also once common among unlettered Whites in Maryland and elsewhere in the southeast. Please peruse the journals of folklore and language at the nearest decent library.

Folklorists collect and record their material in the form in which they find it; much of our history and its meaning would be lost if the songs and stories of the past had been been transliterated and strait-jacketed to suit narrow-minded squeamish censors.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: NormanD
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 04:35 PM

The various journals of folklore, etc. round my unlettered parts only cover the various and splendid dialects of the UK, none of which include the Gwine subculture.

Narrow-minded squeamish censors? That's a good one. How about "political correctness gone mad" as an alternative cliché?

As Lenny Bruce once said, in his take on Negro Spirituals: "I'm gwine to heaben. And de first t'ing I'm a-gonna do is find out what a "gwine" is".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 06:06 PM

Obviously you are unfamiliar with the various and splendid dialects of North America.
But you are also unfamiliar with the various and splendid dialects of the UK.
See "Isle of Wight Words," H. &. R. Smith, 1881, a standard work on one of the UK dialects. "I be gwine zoo vast as I can" for example (I am going as fast as I can).
Gwine (earlier gwyn) was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1987.
Suggested reading- "Tom Cladpole's Jurney to Lunnun," (42) 1831, by R. Lower. An English classic, in Sussex dialect. "He said he must be gwyn."


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Subject: Origins: Were You There (spiritual) - J W Work
From: Genie
Date: 12 Apr 11 - 07:46 PM

My choir director recently sent me this set of lyrics for "Were You There" with the song being attributed as below (Frederick J. Work | John Wesley, Jr. Work).


Were You There?
(Trad. African-American Spiritual)

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

© Public Domain
Frederick J. Work | John Wesley, Jr. Work
CCLI License No. 730393


Somewhere else in my google searches I saw it attributed to some other composers/authors. Most sources I've seen say the author is unknown or just call it "trad."   Does anyone know if any of the variations of this spiritual do have known authors?   


This site has the following about John Wesley Work II and Frederick J. Work:

[[John W. WORK III (1901-1967)
He was educated at Fisk University and Yale University. Like several members of his family, he was intensely interested in Negro folksong. He toured with Fisk student singing group.

Like his father John Wesley Work II (a professor at Fisk) and his brother Frederick J. Work, he worked at Fisk University and collected spirituals in South.

In 1940, he published the collection "American Negro Songs and Spirituals".

It is of interest to know that John Wesley Work II and Frederick Work published "New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers" (1901). Then J. W. Work II published himself "Folk Songs of the American Negro" (1915). ]]

Is this a one of those cases of someone collecting traditional songs and becoming known as the songwriter/composer by virtue of publishing them?

(In any case, the song is PD.)


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 Apr 11 - 03:02 PM

Lyrics and music to WERE YOU THERE? appeared in an article "Recent Negro Melodies" by William E. Barton, D.D., in The New England Magazine, Vol. XIX, No. 6, February, 1899, page 714. It was the third in a series of articles; the two earlier ones were called "Old Plantation Hymns" and "Hymns of the Slave and the Freedman." Barton doesn't name a specific source for WERE YOU THERE? but he mentions the Jubilee Singers in the earlier two articles.

All 3 articles were collected and published that same year as a book called "Old Plantation Hymns" but the book seems to be nothing more than offprints from the magazine. The book doesn't credit the magazine nor vice versa.

The annual reports of the American Missionary Association show that the Jubilee Singers sang WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD? at five consecutive annual meetings, 1898 to 1902. So it seems likely that the Jubilee Singers were Barton's source.

The song was published again in Folk Song of the American Negro by John Wesley Work (Nashville: Fisk University, 1915), page 100.


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Subject: Chords Add: WERE YOU THERE (spiritual)
From: maple_leaf_boy
Date: 14 Apr 11 - 04:07 PM

I'm sorry about that last post. I hope this one will help.
Here are two arrangements.

(D)Were you there when they (Em)crucified my (D) Lord?
(D)Were you (F#m)there when they (G)crucified my (Em) Lord? (A)
(D)Oh! (Em) (A) (Bm)Sometimes it causes me to (G)tremble, (D)tremble,
(A)tremble.
(D)Were (G)you (D)there when they (Em)cruci(A)fied my (D) Lord?


(C)Were (F)you (C)there when they (Dm)cruci(Am)fied my (C)Lord? Dm G Am
(Am)Were you (Em)there when they (F)cruci(Am)fied my (Dm)Lord? F Am Dm G
(C)Oh!(Dm)(G)(Am) (C)So(Dm)me - (G or Em)times (Am)it (G)causes me to (F)tremble, (C)tremble, (G)tremble.
(C)Were (F)you (C)there when they (Dm)cruci(G)fied my (C)Lord?


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords: Were You There (spiritual)
From: JedMarum
Date: 27 Mar 12 - 08:50 PM

no more background on its origins? It seems to be a folk song/spiritual from the slavery era? or later?


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords: Were You There (spiritual)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Mar 12 - 10:53 AM

I'd put my money on the late 19th C and on someone(s) associated with Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords: Were You There (spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Mar 12 - 04:24 PM

No evidence of slavery era origin. The song was attributed to the Hampton singers, as previously posted; it appeared in R. Nathanial Dett 1927, in an Appendix to the earlier editions, the first by Thomas Fenner, but all that is said by Dett is that he is making additions there of some in his own collection (11 songs in the Appendix, some known in earlier collections).

My guess is that leeneia's date is about right, but I would credit the Hampton Institution for singing it first for the public. Whether it is theirs, or if they collected it, I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords: Were You There (spiritual)
From: JedMarum
Date: 28 Mar 12 - 10:52 PM

my gut says late 19th C too ... I have seen attributions stating that it came from the slavery period ... but I am dubious. I just wondered if there is any more documentation or study on its origins.


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