Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pharoah's Army Got Drown-ded

A few versions of Mary Don't You Weep, a negro spiritual with pre-civil war roots. Leroi Jones, in his Blues People, a History of Negro Music in White America, discusses this song as an example of how Christianity provided slaves "a great pacifer and palliative" while producing a "great inner strength to the devout and an almost inhuman indifference to pain."
One of the reasons Christianity proved so popular was that it was the religion, according to older Biblical tradition, of an oppressed people. The struggle of the Jews and their long sought "Promised Land" proved a strong analogy for the black slaves.

Mary, don't you weep an' Martha don't you moan,
Mary, don't you weep an' Martha don't you moan;
Pharoah's army got drown-ded,
Oh Mary don't you weep.

I thinks everyday and I wish I could
Stand on the rock where Mose stood
Oh Pharoah's army got drown-ded
Oh Mary don't you weep.

Above is a 1929 version by a group of Georgia field hands. Below is Pete Seeger with a very young Bernice Johnson Reagon, who later went on to found Sweet Honey and the Rock. Below this, a truly stupendous 70s version from the All-Star Gospel Ensemble, performed on Soul Train.

1 comment:

Bruce from Accordion Noir said...

Dude! That guy stole Barry Gibb's hair!

I learned this song from the Rise Up Singing songbook (without ever hearing what it sounded like.) I was with Pastors for Peace taking aid to Cuba, so my version sounds like a calypso. Charlie King (folksinger) liked it.