Sunday morning music

Let’s have a change of pace.  So-called ‘spirituals’ or ‘negro spirituals’ grew out of the experience of slaves in America, and have become a recognized music genre in their own right.  They also informed and influenced the folk music revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s, to such an extent that there’s hardly a single folk music ‘great’ who didn’t also record spirituals.  There are so many of them it’s impossible to do them justice in a short blog post, but here are half a dozen classics, plus an updated one.

Let’s start with a 1920’s recording from Paul Robeson of ‘Go Down Moses‘.

Here’s Bob Gibson and Joan Baez in a remastered 1959 recording of ‘We Are Crossing That Jordan River’.

And who can forget the great Louis Armstrong with ‘Ezekiel Saw de Wheel’?

The Weavers were one of the earliest groups in the folk music revival, and leaned heavily on spirituals for their repertoire.  Here they are in 1963 with ‘Sinner Man‘.

Patsy Cline and a young Willie Nelson collaborate in this rendition of ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee‘.

Here’s Australian group The Seekers with ‘Come The Day’.  It’s an original composition, but heavily influenced by the many spirituals the group performed.  I’ve included it as an interesting example of how spirituals influenced the new folk music of the 1960’s.

Finally, the old classic spirituals have lent themselves to some reinterpretation down the years.  Here’s Pete Seeger with a humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at ‘Old Time Religion‘.

I’m not sure how many of the original singers of spirituals would have reacted to that version!



  1. Huh! I'd encountered Real Old-Time Religion before, but never realized Pete Seeger had anything to do with it!
    A later development along that line is Tom Smith's On-Line Religion.
    It's all good fun until the Twelfth Elvis returns from occultation to tell us that we were supposed to be on that comet back in 1997.

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