"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 Bascomb Lunsford in February 1928, Brunswick 231. 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, featured in the final episode of The Prisoner
- The Kingsmen
- Schoolhouse Rock!, its opening segment to "Them Not-So-Dry Bones" features a barbershop quartet singing a verse based on this spiritual.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks
- The Lennon Sisters
- Mills Brothers
- Nicodemus Jamaican DJ, bone man connection (1981)
- Tennessee Ernie Ford
- Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, 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"
- The Kidsongs Kids and two doctors who are a black man and an Asian woman on "What I Want to Be" as "Them Bones" with rap verses.
- "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.