|Written by||James Weldon Johnson|
Dem Bones — also called Dry Bones and Dem Dry Bones — is a well-known spiritual song. The melody was composed by African-American author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938). Some sources also credit his brother, J Rosomond Johnson. First recorded by The Famous Myers Jubilee Singers in 1928. Both a long and a shortened version of the song are widely known. The lyrics are inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14, where the Prophet visits the "Valley of Dry Bones" and prophesies that they will one day be resurrected at God's command, picturing the national resurrection of Israel.
The chorus and verses are noted for many variations among performers, but fall into the following style. The second verse reverses the first in a pattern similar to:
- The neck bone (dis)connected from the head bone
- … etc…
Over the years, the song has been played and recorded by many artists, including:
- Shirley Caesar, gospel version notable for not adhering to the distinctive traditional melody.
- Clara Ward Singers, lead vocals by Malvilyn Statham
- Rosemary Clooney
- Caravans, lead vocals by Inez Andrews, circa.1960
- The Delta Rhythm Boys (developed the song in recordings for Decca in 1941,1942 and 1947 to the version known today by increasing the pitch by a semi-tone with each bone connected and decreasing for each bone disconnected)
- Deep River Boys Featuring Harry Douglas with Pete Brown's Orchestra (Recorded in Oslo on August 23, 1956 and released on the 78 rpm record HMV AL 6019).
- The Four Lads
- The Kingsmen
- The Lennon Sisters
- Mills Brothers
- Tennessee Ernie Ford
- Signature Sound Quartet, 2003 album Glory to His Name
- Fats Waller
- Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians (Recorded on 30 April 1947 and released on the 78 rpm record Decca 23948), used in the 1986 BBC television serial, The Singing Detective.
- Phish played this song to start the third set of their show on 12/31/2014. Fishman played his electrolux vacuum, which was the start of the night's ceremonial NYE show gag.
- The Cathedrals, 1986 album "Travelin' Live"
Comedic versions and parodies
- Alvin and the Chipmunks (in the 1999 direct-to-video film Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein)
- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
- Die Campbells, comedy version, with parody lyrics sung in Afrikaans.
- Fred Gwynne (In-character as Herman Munster in one episode of the television series The Munsters.)
- Jay-Jay Johanson, Dry Bones EP from 2013 and also on the album Cockroach.
- Peter O'Toole sings the song in the 1972 film, The Ruling Class as a call-to-arms to the upper-classes to "bring back fear" by means of the breaking wheel.
- The Wiggles
- "Locust St". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "Dry Bones, Valley of," in Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, David L. Jeffery, editor. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, November 1, 1992, pages 216-217, ISBN 0-8028-3634-8
- Entry for Decca 23948 on http://www.discogs.com (including image of disc label). Accessed 13 March 2012.