I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

po_Negro-Spiritual1Spirituals (or Negro spirituals) are religious (generally Christian) songs that were created by enslaved African people in the United States.

The term spiritual is derived from spiritual song. The King James Bible’s translation of Ephesians 5:19 says: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The term “spiritual song” was often used in the black and white Christian community through the 19th century (and indeed much earlier), and “spiritual” was used as a noun to mean, according to the context, “spiritual person” or “spiritual thing”, but not specifically with regard to song. Negro spiritual first appears in print in the 1860s, where slaves are described as using spirituals for religious songs sung sitting or standing in place, and spiritual shouts for more dance-like music.

Musicologist George Pullen Jackson extended the term spiritual to a wider range of folk hymnody, as in his 1938 book White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, but this does not appear to have been widespread usage previously. The term, however, has often been broadened to include subsequent arrangements into more standard European-American hymnodic styles, and to include post-emancipation songs with stylistic similarities to the original Negro spirituals.

Although numerous rhythmical and sonic elements of Negro spirituals can be traced to African sources, Negro spirituals are a musical form that is indigenous and specific to the religious experience in the United States of Africans and their descendants. They are a result of the interaction of music and religion from Africa with music and religion of European origin. Further, this interaction occurred only in the United States. Africans who converted to Christianity in other parts of the world, even in the Caribbean and Latin America, did not evolve this form.

COULDN’T HEAR NOBODY PRAY

An’ I couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray,

In the valley,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
On my knees,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
With my burden,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
An’ my Savior,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

Chilly waters,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
In the Jordan,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
Crossing over,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
Into Canaan,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

Hallejuh!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
Troubles over,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
In the Kingdom,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
With my Jesus,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.