Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Today, the daddy is listening to gospels and spirituals. He's pushing the repeat button for "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which was written by Wallace Willis. According to the African Registry, December 21st is the date that the song was registered for the whole to know and hear. Here is the story:

December 21
*On this date in 1840, The Registry celebrates the writing of the hymn “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”

It was penned by Wallace Willis, the black slave of a Choctaw Indian. Known as ''Uncle Wallace,’’ his writing of this well known American hymn was inspired by his current home near Oklahoma City. Willis was also a servant at Spencer Academy, a Choctaw boarding school for boys in Choctaw County. On the day he wrote the hymn, Willis looked out over the cotton field he was tilling and gazed upon the Red River in the distance. This reminded him of the Mississippi River and the plantation his master owned before moving to Doaksville, Oklahoma Indian Territory.

With the sun bright that hot day, Wallace expressed his longing and weariness the only way he knew how. Willis and his wife, Minerva, often sang Willis's songs for the students, teachers, and guests of Spencer Academy. A missionary took Willis's song to the East where it was quickly picked up by university choirs. The spiritual was composed in a Capella and was an early hallmark in black Oklahoma's contribution to popular music and culture.

Story behind spiritual ‘Swing Chariot' emerges


SagaciousHillbilly said...

I remember learning that song; probably in Jr. Hi. I was lucky in that we had required music classes once per week all the way through till HS where I went to school and we had a great music teacher who taught us all the way through. One year was American folk songs and "negro spirituals" was integrated into that mix. She was probably ahead of her time.
But what an amazing song that I can remember the melody and lyrics 40+ yrs later without having to think about them.
There have been sad times in my life when I just wanted to belt out that song loud and clear.

Thanks Daddy for the info and the memory gig.

MacDaddy said...

Sagacious: What an education you've had. Many schools have cut music classes. So, unlike you, kids don't get to see how the music we developed fits in with music from other lands. They don't get to understand the other forms of music. Hopefully, music classes will be brought back.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea that that spiritual was written by a Native American. I loved "Swing Low . . ." and also sung it in junior higher or younger. We sung a lot of spirituals and folk songs -- in a tiny school in the middle of North Dakota in the 1960s/70s.

Music programs today (in Minneapolis) that I've observed have gone the route of teaching more pop songs, which makes me sad because generations of kids won't get this same exposure to great songs like "Swing Low. . ." Although I think eliminating music programs in public schools is not a good idea, the way I've seen some program executed I'd have eliminated the program too. I think there's a feeling among some teachers that you have to make the kids happy by giving them stuff that's popular to sing or play. The kids get to drive what music they learn. A little of this is OK, but I also think there's a lot to be said about teaching the classics -- in music, literature, and art.

revvy rev said...

I sang Swing Low in an African American elementary school choir in the 60s. I also sang a popularized version that Pop Staples and the Staple Singers had recorded. Thanks for the info. Passing along our history is so essential!

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, I don't know that my education was any better than anyone else's at the time. As you and Verna and the Rev have pointed out; the system was different back then. We learned the basics and that included music, art and phys ed. . . for everybody. Oh the post I'm going to have to write on this topic.

Sista GP said...

we sung this along with other "Negro Spirituals" in Jr high choir. Maybe in elementary too, but I don't remember.

Thanks for the history lesson.

rainywalker said...

Very interesting post. Would it be okey if I did a historical post on Wallace Willis. I got to researching him last night and have spent 7 hours gathering information. Willis and Oklahoma have some wonderful history. I lived there for almost two years.

MacDaddy said...

Rev, Sagacious, anonymous: By giving us a basic education in music, those old folks got it right. They were trying to develop the total person.

MacDaddy said...

Rainywalker: It would be great to read a piece on Wallace Willis. When you do, I'd be happy to cross-post and put it on my blog as well.