Song carries special meaning
To the editor:
As the holiday season draws near, I would like to relate the story of the traditional spiritual song “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” or, simply “Motherless Child.”
The song comes to us from the era of slavery in the United States. Many notable versions have been recorded. Bobby Breen sings it in the 1939 movie “Way Down South.”
On Page 17 of William E. Barton’s 1899 “Hymns of the Slave and the Freeman,” he relates the story of the Frisk Jubliee Singers, when one of the original members from Mississippi brought a song her grandparents had sung in slave times and the most beautiful song, “Motherless Child.” Mahalia Jackson, Fatts Waller and Louis Armstrong all performed the song. It’s in the 1990 “Crime and the City Solution.”
The song is clearly an expression of pain and dispair as it conveys the hopelessness of a child who has been torn from his or her parents. Although the plaintive words can be interpreted literally, they might alternatively be metarphoric.
It was performed by the Operation Breadbasket Choir in Chicago in the 1970s and recorded on the CD “Gospel the Old Way for Those Too Young to Remember.”
Many have lost loved ones this holiday season. The original score brings the line forward. “Then I got down on my knees and pray, pray. Get down on my knees and pray …”
Let us all join in praying to give thanks this holiday season, putting aside those differences we have. God bless, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.