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Please read this entire post before you decide to hunt me down and kill me.

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Words: John W. Work, Jr., Folk Songs of the American Negro (Nashville, Tennessee: 1907).
Music: African-American spiritual.

This one is going to be a little different, because in this case it’s not the song itself that is bad. It’s the people who are singing or playing it.

Go Tell It on the Mountain is a spiritual, sometimes called a Negro spiritual, a song created by slaves who took the Christianity forced on them by their captors and used the uniqueness of their African roots to forge their own expressions of faith and hope. The slaves turned field songs and chants into songs of redemption, often incorporating the story of the Israelite’s captivity. Some scholars believe that some spirituals contained coded messages to slaves who wished to escape through the Underground Railroad.

Go Tell It on the Mountain was collected, along with many other spirituals, by John Wesley Work, Jr. Work was a professor at the historically black Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee. The love of music, and these songs especially, was a family tradition. John W. Work I was a choir director, John Jr’s brother worked with him in compiling these songs, and two of his sons carried on the tradition.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that this song, and others like it spring from the experiences of black slaves. They come from pain and suffering and captivity, from being torn from your homeland, separated from your family, treated like cattle – even worse than cattle. When we sing these songs today we have to pay respect to that experience. Anybody, of any color or ancestry, who sings these songs has to know something, has to have been somewhere, has to have experienced some pain deep down in their gut so bad that it felt like they were drowning – in fact drowning would seem like a relief.

In a word, they have to have soul.

What follows are some of the more egregious examples I’ve found of people with no soul who have attempted this song:

Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts the founder of ORU, and his then wife Patti. They divorced in 1979, and it has not been pretty. This is on a CD that Mom has, I tried to find this rendition on video so you could see just how white bread and soulless Richie and Patti are, but no such luck so I made my own on Windows Movie Maker and posted it to my new channel on the Tube of You. If I may so say, the end result isn’t half bad. It’s all bad 😉

OK, here’s the deal. No accordion should ever be used to play any song, but especially not this song. In fact, all accordions should be rounded up, ground into a fine powder, and used to insulate homes for the poor. I have spoken.

I’ve saved the worst for last, Henrietta and Merna from a Public Access TV show doing all they can to suck the life out of everyone who hears them. I can just hear the director in the studio saying, “Fantastic. Just fantastic, ladies, but this is TV so can you just turn the enthusiasm down a notch? Beautiful. OK, take two…”

Apparently H&M are quite the YouTube sensations, there are even a couple of remixes of their rendition but nothing beats the original.

Am I saying that no white people should ever sing African American spirituals, by no means. What follows are two of my favorite artists, one black and one white, both of them have plenty of soul and do justice to this great song:

Bob Marley and the Wailers

James Taylor

OK, if after all this you still feel the need to hunt me down and kill me, try to make it quick. Thank you.

2010 Update:

Since I am still alive and ever vigilant, I found some more craptacular videos from Richard and Patti Roberts and the World Action Singers. Somewhere in here is the future Kathy Lee Gifford:

If you think the choreography in The Renewed Mind Is The Key is bad, check out the fancy stepping in this one from 1973. One of my youth pastors used to call them the “Worldly Actions Swingers:”

Watching these videos it strikes me that that Patti seems really sexy, bright, and frankly too smart to be doing this. Oh well…

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One thought on “The 12 Bad Songs of Christmas: #9

  1. Dear Misplaced Boy,

    Thank you SO MUCH for including Bob Marley in your Christmas montage. As you may have heard, this brown-eyed girl has JUST returned from the Rasta world and is now brown all over. Have an IRIE season and don’ worry bout no ting!!

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