Monday, February 20, 2012

Swing Low

Sean Curnyn on "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot":
.... [The] image of chariots of fire coming for Elijah inspired the widely-beloved spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which is credited to Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman who is believed to have composed it sometime circa 1860. ....

...[W]hen ordinary folk sing the song, there’s no question but that it is in the name of evoking a joyful, hope-filled embrace of death itself. It is death characterized as going home, of-course, and there are countless songs in the Christian tradition that take this angle. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is noteworthy for its vigor and visceral power. You can really put your back into singing it, and swinging it. It’s easy enough to look back with a modern sensibility and understand how someone like Wallis Willis, as a former slave, would know how a person might yearn for the release of death and the promise of a life much better beyond. Yet, we all have our burdens, after all, and we all most certainly die, and the song continues to stir hearts and plumb souls. .... [more]
Curnyn has more to say and provides YouTubes of several performances including this one:


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot | The Cinch Review
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