Ain't No Grave

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Ain't No Grave (also known as Gonna Hold This Body Down) is a traditional American gospel song attributed to Claude Ely (1922-1978) of Virginia.

Claude Ely describes composing the song while sick with tuberculosis in 1934 when he was twelve years old. His family prayed for his health, and in response he spontaneously performed this song. Originally recorded by Bozie Sturdivant in 1941 in a slower, Appalachian gospel style and in 1946-7 by Sister Rosetta Tharpe with barrelhouse piano;[1] the song in Ely's version was recorded in 1953 but composed in 1934.[2] Many notable artists have performed the song, including Johnny Cash on the posthumous album American VI: Ain't No Grave.

In 1967 the song was featured in the film Cool Hand Luke while Luke (Paul Newman) is digging a grave, performed by Harry Dean Stanton.[3]

In 1989 Russ Taff covered this song on the album The Way Home and also as an extended version on the 1991 album Under Their Influence.

In 1997 it was featured in the film, The Apostle, performed by the movie's star Robert Duvall.[4]

In 2006 Crooked Still recorded the song on the album Shaken by a Low Sound.

In 2015 Tom Jones recorded the song on his Praise and Blame album.

In 2017, Bonfire Records Bluegrass recording artists, Wilson Banjo Co. recorded a cover of "Ain't No Grave" on their album SPIRITS IN THE HILLS, charting on the Roots Music Report and garnering significant attention to their music video on social media.

In 2017 a cover of the song by Hidden Citizens appears in the trailer for the film Aftermath.[5]

In 2018, the song was used as the end credits to the final episode of the first season of Altered Carbon.

Johnny Cash's version[edit]

Johnny Cash covered "Ain't No Grave" shortly before his death in September 2003. The recording was released on February 26, 2010, as part of a posthumous album titled American VI: Ain't No Grave.[6]

In 2010 Cash's version of the song was featured on the episode "Patriot Down" of NCIS.[7]

In 2011 WWE professional wrestler The Undertaker briefly used Cash's version as his entrance theme in the lead up to and including his match at Wrestlemania XXVII with Triple H.[8]

In 2012 Quentin Tarantino used Cash's version for the trailer for Django Unchained.[9]

In 2016 Cash's version was featured in the end credits to the first episode of Westworld.[10]

In 2017 Cash's version was featured in the second trailer for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.[11]

In 2017 Cash's version was featured in the 2017 BBC television documentary The Scottish Bounty Hunter starring Christian Matlock.


  1. ^ "Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Complete Recorded Works, Vol 3 1946-1947, track 21". all Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Radio Diaries (5 May 2011). "A Nephew's Quest: Who Was Brother Claude Ely?". National Public Radio. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  3. ^ "Cool Hand Luke (1967) - Soundtrack". IMDB. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "The Apostle (1997) - Soundtrack". IMDB. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Aftermath Trailer (2017)". Trailer Addict. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Kreps, Daniel (January 13, 2010). "Johnny Cash's "American VI: Ain't No Grave" Out February 26th". Rolling Stone. 
  7. ^ ""NCIS" Patriot Down". IMDB. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  8. ^ Frye, Ryan. "WWE: TIES WITH UNDERTAKER & JOHNNY CASH LIE MUCH DEEPER THAN "AIN'T NO GRAVE"". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  9. ^ Anderson, Kyle. "Movie trailers: What's that Song?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "Westworld Soundtrack (Season 1)". Lyricsoundtrack. Retrieved October 3, 2016. 
  11. ^ Thorne, Will. "Jack Sparrow Returns in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Trailer". Variety. Retrieved 10 February 2017.