Handy Helps if the Urge to Sing Has Really Taken You

John Brown’s Baby…

John Brown’s baby had a cold upon his chest
John Brown’s baby had a cold upon his chest
John Brown’s baby had a cold upon his chest
And they rubbed it with camphorated oil.

Verse 2: Omit word “baby” throughout and do motions [no, I have no idea what these motions are]

Verse 3: Omit “baby” and “cold” and do motions

Verse 4: Omit “baby”, “cold” and “chest” and do motions

Verse 5: Omit “baby”, “cold”, “chest” and “rubbed” and do motions

Verse 6: Omit “baby”, “cold”, “chest”, “rubbed” and “camphorated oil” and do motions

John Brown had a little Indian…

John Brown had a little Indian
John Brown had a little Indian
John Brown had a little Indian
One little Indian boy

One little, two little,
three little Indians
Four little, five little,
six little Indians
Seven little, eight little,
nine little Indians
Ten little Indian boys

John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave…

On Sunday, 16 Oct 1859, John Brown led fourteen whites and four blacks in a raid on the Harper’s Ferry, VA, arsenal and rifle factory, hoping to spark a slave rebellion. After two days of barricading themselves in the enginehouse, with ten selected prisoners (prominent slaveholders) as hostages, John Brown and his followers were overwhelmed by a storming party of United States marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was tried, convicted of treason, and hanged in Charlestown, VA, on 2 Dec 1859.

Hear it
VERSION No. 1 as reprinted ibid., pp. 166-167
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
His soul is marching on.
CHORUS:
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His soul is marching on.

He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
His soul is marching on!

John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back,
John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back,
John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back,
His soul is marching on!

His pet lambs will meet him on the way,
His pet lambs will meet him on the way,
His pet lambs will meet him on the way,
They go marching on!

They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree,
They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree,
They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree,
As they march along!

Now, three rousing cheers for the Union,
Now, three rousing cheers for the Union,
Now, three rousing cheers for the Union,
As we are marching on!

VERSION No. 2
Source unknown; DIGITRAD FILENAME: JOHNBRWN
John Brown’s body lies a-moulderin’ in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-moulderin’ in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-moulderin’ in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.
CHORUS:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His soul goes marching on.

He captured Harper’s Ferry with his nineteen men so true;
He frightened old Virginia ’til she trembled through and through.
They hanged him for a traitor, themselves the traitor’s crew,
His soul goes marching on.

The stars above in Heaven are a-lookin’ kindly down,
The stars above in Heaven are a-lookin’ kindly down,
The stars above in Heaven are a-lookin’ kindly down,
On the grave of old John Brown.

He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.

VERSION No. 3 (“THE PRESIDENT’S PROCLAMATION”)
(EDNA DEAN PROCTOR) (c. 1863)
as reprinted in C. A. Brown (revised by Willard A. Heaps), The Story of Our National Ballads, New York, NY, 1960, p. 177
John Brown died on a scaffold for the slave,
Dark was the hour when we dug his hallowed grave;
Now God avenges the life he gladly gave,
Freedom reigns today.
CHORUS:
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave;
John Brown lives in the triumphs of the brave;
John Brown’s soul not a higher joy can crave — Freedom reigns today!

BACKGROUND ON THE DEVELOPMENT
From William A. Ward (ed.), The American Bicentennial Songbook, Vol. 1 (1770-1870s), New York, NY, 1975, p. 236
About 1856 William Steffe of South Carolina wrote a camp-meeting song with the traditional “Glory Hallelujah” refrain. It started with the words “Say, brothers, will you meet us on Canaan’s happy shore?” The tune had such an infectious swing that it became widely known.
Early in the Civil War, a regiment stationed in Boston [Second Battalion of Massachusetts Infantry at Fort Warren] included a soldier named John Brown. This regiment using Steffe’s tune sang about the fiery John Brown of Kansas who shortly before had made his stand against slavery, but directed it as a jest toward their contemporary John Brown.

From C. A. Brown (revised by Willard A. Heaps), The Story of Our National Ballads, New York, NY, 1960, pp. 174-178

Four men of the unit formed a quartet, and it was from this glee club that the entire company learned the Methodist hymn….As it happened, one of the singers… was an honest and simple Scottish sergeant named John Brown, who was the good-natured butt of their jokes. Finally, a jest was made of his similarity with the great Abolitionist. This is how the verses of the John Brown Song, as it came to be known, originated. One evening…, the query was shouted, “What’s the news?”, and promptly the retort came, “Why, John Brown’s dead,” leading to the first verse….
Referring to the frequent tours of guard duty and dress parades, someone added:

“John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back.”
Since the regimental chaplain was fond of calling the volunteers “The army of the Lord,” the verse

“He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord”
quite naturally followed.
The battalion… often called itself “Webster’s cattle,” after the name of its commander…, hence the verse:

“His pet lambs will meet him on the way.”
On March 1, 1862, at Charlestown, Virginia, on the spot where John Brown was hanged, the Webster regiment formally sang John Brown’s Bodyin his memory. By that time the tune was taken up by the nation, and hundreds of soldiers were marching into battle with the name of John Brown on their lips….

As the war progressed…, Confederate President Jefferson Davis became a hated symbol, calling for an added verse:

“They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree.”
Later, as Union soldiers trudged many a long and weary mile, they sang with patriotic flourish a final added verse:

“Now, three rousing cheers for the Union,
As we are marching on!”
As in the case of Dixie, attempts to provide intelligent words… to replace the foolish stanzas resulted in failure. Edna Dean Proctor’s version seemed ill-fitted to the tune….

Only Julia Ward Howe was able to produce verses of dignity to the old tune.

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