She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain

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"She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" (also sometimes called simply "Coming 'Round the Mountain") is a traditional folk song often categorized as children's music.

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 later commonly appeared in ballads as well as some religious songs: examples include "What Wondrous Love Is This", "Brave Benbow", "The Ballad of Captain Kidd", "Sam Hall" and "Ye Jacobites by Name".[1][verification needed]

Old spiritual[edit]

Although the first printed version of the song appeared in Carl Sandburg's The American Songbag in 1927, it is believed to have originated during the late 1800s, based on an old spiritual titled "When the Chariot Comes" sung to the same melody, which during the 19th century spread through Appalachia, where the lyrics were changed into their current form, which 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 imagined as driving. Like most[citation needed] spirituals originating in the African-American community, however, this was probably a coded anthem for the Underground Railroad.

Children's song[edit]

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 or Barney the Dinosaur.

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.

Variations[edit]

  • A Famous Studios Screen Song, "Comin' Round the Mountain" was released based on this song, and is the featured sing-along song of the cartoon.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1960 album Sing Again with The Chipmunks.
  • At least two soccer chants are sung to the tune of this song: English fans chant "Ten German Bombers" when their team is playing Germany. And Newcastle United fans chant "Ten Mackem Bastards" – celebrating Shola Ameobi's excellent record against their local rivals Sunderland.[citation needed]
  • 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".
  • 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 "Building of the Transcontinental Railroad".
  • 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.
  • The Danish song "Du må få min sofacykel" has the same melody, but the lyrics of the song are about someone giving away their "sofa bike", a bike with a back rest. The original of this song was a drinking song written by the Danish poet, songwriter and artist Mogens Lorentzen around the beginning of the 20th century.
  • 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 onehundred meters / I can hitch-hike with St. Peter"). For a good selection of verses, click here. Back in the 1960's, 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").
  • Ned Flanders of The Simpsons sang his own variation in "The Bart of War" which declares that "poison gas injectors" could threaten his safety.
  • The Malaysian Scout song, "Lai Chi Kan", uses the tune.
  • Raffi changed the song's lyrics to "He'll be Comin' Down the Chimney" (a reference to Santa Claus) on his album More Singable Songs.
  • The American death metal band Macabre used the melody on the song "Coming to Chicago" on their album Dahmer themed on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • The Italian Boy Scouts used to sing the song with very approximate English lyrics or unrelated Italian ones up until the 'Eighties. It was called "Singhingaia" from the refrain.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Monster Hunter", Harper Finkle creates a "spell song" for Alex Russo to remember the spells.
  • In 1967 Bob Dylan and The Band recorded the song, released on their album The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.
  • In 2012 Neil Young together with Crazy Horse recorded an almost six minutes long version on their album Americana with the title "Jesus Chariot".
  • In the Reader's Digest Children's Songbook, the song is rewritten with new words by Dan Fox and his son Paul and tells 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.).[2]
  • A funk version of the song appears on the album Hardcore Jollies from Funkadelic.
  • Some sports fans at the University of Cambridge use this tune to sing "we would rather be at Oxford than St John's".[3]
  • A song titled "Supergrass" (and a number of variant titles) is attested with a similar tune, though it has a lyrical structure with verses and a chorus.[4] The song is a political satire on the Troubles; its narrator is a cowardly informant who is fleeing from the men he allegedly betrayed. It has been recorded by bands including The Irish Brigade and Athenrye.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Ballad as Song, University of California Press, 1969, Chapter Two
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Let's Go London, Oxford & Cambridge: The Student Travel Guide. ISBN 1612370292. 
  4. ^ "Lyr Add: SUPERGRASS". Retrieved 23 June 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sandburg, C., The American Songbag. 1st ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927. p. 372
  • 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.