Michael Row the Boat Ashore

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Melody -
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Collected by Tony Saletan, c. 1950s

Michael row the boat ashore,
Halleluja :|
|: Sister help to trim the sail,
Halleluja. :|

2. Jordan river is chilly and cold,
Halleluja. :|
Kills the body but not the soul,
Halleluja. :|

3. Jordan river is deep and wide,
Halleluja
Milk and honey on the other side,
Halleluja

4. Gabriel blows the trumpet horn,
Halleluja. :|
|: Trumpet sound the world around,
Halleluja. :|


"In 1954, I was searching for good singable work songs to use as folksong-leader at Shaker Village Work Camp in New Lebanon, NY (near the Massachusetts border). I selected a song of that name, collected by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison, and published in their book, "Slave songs of the United States" in 1867 (New York: A. Simpson). It was in a little-used (very dusty) copy at Widener Library of Harvard University. I judged that the tune was very singable, added some harmony (a guitar accompaniment) and thought the one-word chorus would be an easy hit with the teens (it was). But a typical original verse consisted of one line repeated once, and I thought a rhyme would be more interesting to the teen-agers at Shaker Village Work Camp, where I introduced it. So I adapted traditional African-American couplets in place of the original verses. That summer I taught it to Pete Seeger, who sang it with the Weavers, and later a pop group made a recording of it which became a hit." - Tony Saletan

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