Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

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"Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" (or alternatively "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho" or "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho") is a well-known African-American spiritual.

The song is believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the 19th century. Some references suggest that it was copyrighted by Jay Roberts in 1865.[1] The first recorded version was by Harrod's Jubilee Singers, on Paramount Records No. 12116 in 1922 [2] (though some sources[who?] suggest 1924). Later recordings include those by Paul Robeson (1925), Mahalia Jackson (1958) Clara Ward and Hugh Laurie (2011) among many others.

Ralph Flanagan adapted it under the title "Joshua". Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra recorded the spiritual in New York City on March 1, 1950. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-3724 (in USA)[3] and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog numbers B 9938 and IP 604.

Early published versions include some parts in dialect, such as "fit" for "fought". The lyrics allude to the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, in which Joshua led the Israelites against Canaan (Joshua 6:15-21). However, like those of many other spirituals, the words may also be alluding to eventual escape from slavery - in the case of this song, "And the walls came tumblin' down."[4] The lively melody and rhythm also provided energy and inspiration.[5] Critic Robert Cummings wrote: "The jaunty, spirited theme hardly sounds like the product of the pre-Civil War era, and would not sound out of place in a ragtime or even jazz musical from the early 20th century. The closing portion of the tune, sung to the words quoted above, is its most memorable portion: the notes plunge emphatically and impart a glorious sense of collapse, of triumph."[4]


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