She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain
The song is derived from a Christian song known as "When the Chariot Comes". The song's style is reminiscent of the call and response structure of many folk songs; among them are songs with a similar verse-structure but variant melodies, such as If You're Happy and You Know It. These kinds of songs can be traced back to 17th-century, British radical Protestants, and the format later appeared in ballads and some religious songs. Examples include "What Wondrous Love Is This", "Brave Benbow", "The Ballad of Captain Kidd", "Sam Hall", and "Ye Jacobites by Name".[verification needed]
The first printed version of the song appeared in Carl Sandburg's The American Songbag in 1927. Sandburg reports that a negro spiritual “When the Chariot Comes", sung to the same melody, was adapted by railroad workers in the 1890s in the Midwest. It is often heard today with responses that add on to the previous verse.
The song ostensibly refers to the Second Coming of Christ and subsequent Rapture, with the she referring to the chariot that the returning Christ is pictured as driving. Like many spirituals originating in the African-American community, this was probably a coded anthem for the Underground Railroad.
The secularized version was sung by railroad work gangs in the Midwestern United States in the 1890s. Currently the song is usually sung in collections of children's music. The song has been recorded by musicians ranging from Tommy Tucker Time (78'inch)[clarification needed] to Pete Seeger and Barney the Dinosaur. Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).
Harking back to the original lyrics of "When the Chariot Comes", the song is sometimes referenced in relation to the end of the world, most notably in The Illuminatus! Trilogy and the comic book Promethea.
- The Peanuts cast performed the song in the 1977 film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. It was performed by The Winans in This is America, Charlie Brown in its episode titled "Building of the Transcontinental Railroad".
- In the Reader's Digest Children's Songbook, published in 1985, the song is adapted with new words by Dan Fox and his son, Paul. These lyrics tell of the things that "she" will do in increasing number up to ten (e.g.: "She'll be ridin' on a camel", "She'll be tuggin' on two turtles”, "She'll be carvin' three thick thistles”, "She'll be pluckin' four fat pheasants”, etc.).
- Jibjab created a satire about George W. Bush’s re-election, called "Second Term", to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain".
- In 2012 Neil Young together with Crazy Horse recorded an almost six-minute-long version on their album Americana with the title "Jesus Chariot".
- The German song "Von den blauen Bergen kommen wir" shares the same melody, as does the song "Tante aus Marokko" and its Dutch equivalent, "Tante uit Marokko". These last two songs use similar themes from the original but personify the main character more literally as a cowgirl from the Wild West.
- A similar song is found in Norway (derived from Lorentzen's Danish version): "Du skal få min gamle sykkel når jeg dør (hvis jeg dør)." The verses list all the "old" (gamle) things that "you" (du) can have "when/if I die" (når/hvis jeg dør). The things on offer range from the lightly humorous to the scatological and pornographic, with many also playing on religion ("you can have my old bike / when I die, / 'cause the last one hundred meters / I can hitch-hike with St. Peter"). For a good selection of verses, click here. Back in the 1960s, the Norwegian children's songwriter Thorbjørn Egner wrote a completely different text to the same melody instructing children about how to move safely in urban traffic ("Trafikkvisa").
- Some sports fans at the University of Cambridge use this tune to sing "we would rather be at Oxford than St John's".
- Funkadelic references the tune in their song "Comin' Round The Mountain".
- Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Ballad as Song, University of California Press, 1969, Chapter Two
- Sandburg, Carl (1927). The American Songbag. New York: Harcourt, Brace & company. p. 372.
- Simon, William L. (editor). The Reader's Digest Children's Songbook. Readers Digest Association, Pleasantville. p. 178. ISBN 0-89577-214-0 Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
- Let's Go London, Oxford & Cambridge: The Student Travel Guide. ISBN 1612370292.
- Studwell, William E. Lest we forget: a chronological historical survey of some of the most notable songs of the first half of the 20th century. Bloomington, Indiana: Many Musician Memories, 2001. Print.