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Origins of "Michael Row The Boat Ashore" folk song

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posted on Feb, 6 2018 @ 04:40 PM
This song has haunted me since very early childhood.

It was brought into prominence by Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s. Here are both performances:

Pete explains that he found it in an old song book and that Peter, Paul and Mary's hit version was taught to them at college by him. Pete was an amazing man. Without Pete there probably would have been no Bob Dylan,Joan Baez or protest movement. He was a facilitator.

Here is Peter, Paul and Mary's version:

This was a big American hit in the 1960s. Isn't the video art work amazing. That could be my life story truly. I have a real affinity with this haunting video.

The song is an old Negro Spiritual. Here is its history:

"Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" (or "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore", or "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore", or "Michael Row That Gospel Boat") is a Negro spiritual. It was first noted during the American Civil War at St. Helena Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina.[1] It is cataloged as Roud Folk Song Index No. 11975.

It was sung by former slaves whose owners had abandoned the island before the Union navy arrived to enforce a blockade. Charles Pickard Ware was an abolitionist and Harvard graduate who had come to supervise the plantations on St. Helena Island from 1862 to 1865, and he wrote down the song in music notation as he heard the freedmen sing it. Ware's cousin William Francis Allen reported in 1863 that the former slaves sang the song as they rowed him in a boat across Station Creek.[2]

It is perhaps my favourite Negro Spiritual. I can do a beautiful version of it. I do a very gentle ballad version on my lovely American Gibson acoustic. Here are the very earliest version lyrics. This is the version I am learning just now. I may record it at some point and share it with you, but not for a while yet, just one time before I pop my clogs:

"Michael row de boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael boat a gospel boat, Hallelujah!
I wonder where my mudder deh. [there]
See my mudder on de rock gwine home.
On de rock gwine home in Jesus' name.
Michael boat a music boat.
Gabriel blow de trumpet horn.
O you mind your boastin' talk.
Boastin' talk will sink your soul.
Brudder, lend a helpin' hand.
Sister, help for trim dat boat.
Jordan stream is wide and deep.
Jesus stand on t' oder side.
I wonder if my maussa deh.
My fader gone to unknown land.
O de Lord he plant his garden deh.
He raise de fruit for you to eat.
He dat eat shall neber die.
When de riber overflow.
O poor sinner, how you land?
Riber run and darkness comin'.
Sinner row to save your soul.
Michel, row the boat a-shore
Then you'll hear the trumpet blow

Then you'll hear the trumpet sound,
Trumpet sound the world around

Trumpet sound the jubilee
Trumpet sound for you and me

Another version is:

"They nailed Jesus to the Cross, Hallelujah
But his faith was never lost, Hallelujah
So Christian soldiers off to war, Hallelujah
Hold that line in Arkansas, Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!

Like Joshua at Jericho, Hallelujah
Alabama's next to go, Hallelujah
So Mississippi kneel and pray, Hallelujah
Some more buses on the way, Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!"

That version obviously relates to the civil war.

"Row, Michael, Row, Hallelujah,
Row, Michael, Row, Hallelujah,
Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah,
See how we (do) the row, Hallelujah,
See how we the row, Hallelujah,
Let me tries me chance, Hallelujah,
Let me tries me chance, Hallelujah,
Jump in the jolly boat, Hallelujah,
Jump in the jolly boat, Hallelujah,
Just row Michael, row, Hallelujah,
Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah."

It refer to the Archangel Michael. At the end times Michael will rise as a Prince an protector of his people as Daniel prophesied:

2 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.

Michael appears throughout the Bible and in revelation, too, where He fights and overcomes the Dragon in the War In Heaven and is God's bouncer, casting the Dragon out.

(Statue of Michael in Paris. I have seen this. It is beautiful. Paris has many statues of Michael).

I live right by St Michael's Mount in Penwith, Cornwall, UK. Here it is:

St Michael's Mount (Cornish: Karrek Loos yn Koos,[1] meaning "hoar rock in woodland")[2] is a small tidal island in Mount's Bay, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The island is a civil parish and is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water. The population of this parish in 2011 was 35.[3] It is managed by the National Trust, and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650. The earliest buildings, on the summit, date to the 12th century.[4]

There is one off the coast of France, too:

Historically, St Michael's Mount was a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France (with which it shares the same tidal island characteristics and the same conical shape, in spite of being much smaller, at 57 acres, than Mont St Michel), when it was given to the Benedictine religious order of Mont Saint-Michel by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century.[6]

All the area of the beach there was a Hazel Wood Woodland before being submerged 1700 BC (the Cornish one). I live in a very old fishing village the other side of Mount's Bay. It is very beautiful here, but getting so poor now.

I love my name which happens to guessed it...Michael.

Michael is a Hebrew question and means "Who is like the Lord?"


edit on 6-2-2018 by Revolution9 because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 6 2018 @ 05:12 PM
a reply to: Revolution9

I knew the moment I saw the title that it would have something to do with slavery. I honestly just thought "Yep it'll be something about slave labour or non white suffering" and it was. With all the politeness I can give I'm honestly assuming that if this is picked up by mainstream it'll be beaten over the head of every person within hearing distance.

posted on Feb, 6 2018 @ 10:30 PM
This is also who I was named after.

It was sung to me as a kid when I could not sleep.

Michael was/is Gods right hand man.

posted on Feb, 7 2018 @ 04:18 AM
a reply to: Revolution9

Last time I went to St. Michael's Mount I walked back across the causeway with an ex-bomb disposal man in an electric wheelchair. He said "I only got blown up twice. The first time wasn't too bad . . ."

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