She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain

We are continuing to release a new recording on the first friday of the month.  This month’s song is‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’ and you can hear it wherever you get music, through the link in our bio, or by copy and pasting

We would love to hear what you think and welcome you to pass the song along to any who might enjoy it.  Below are some words on the song from Ben:

‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’ is an old American folk song with an interesting history. As with many old folk songs, the question of authorship is murky. The familiar children’s version that most people know today is the end result of a long evolutionary process. 

It is widely agreed that ‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’ originated with the early African-American spiritual ‘When the Chariot Comes’ which was published in William Eleazar Barton’s 1899 songbook “Old Plantation Hymns.” This song is about the second coming of Christ who the lyrics depict as riding a chariot. The word ‘she’ refers to the chariot itself. Because of its origins in the slave community and the lack of biblical passages depicting Jesus in a chariot, some have conjectured that ‘When the Chariot Comes’ contained a hidden reference to the underground railroad. Certainly many other negro spirituals combined the longing for the freedom of heaven with the coded message of intent to escape to freedom in this life. Perhaps ‘When the Chariot Comes’ is one of these songs. 

Because of the adaptable nature of the music and words, the song began to change in the early 20th century to suit people in ‘non-religious’ contexts. It became a song sung by railroad workers in which ‘she’ was a locomotive, and by coal miners hoping for deliverance from the miner’s labor union. In 1927 Carl Sandburg published what had already become a popular song in his book ‘The American Songbag.’ Since then, many people have recorded ‘She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain.’ It has been performed on many stages and around many campfires, and is a good example of the many cultural strands that join together to form American folk music. 

I confess that as a child, I pictured an old woman careening around a mountain ridge in a horse drawn carriage, her hands overflowing with chicken dumplings. How did she keep hold of the reins? I don’t know. But who could resist going out to meet her? 

Ben Keyes for Ordinary Time

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