Skip To Content
Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory | Article

Jubilee Songs

Combining the heritage of African culture and the experiences encountered while in bondage, early African American music would become a unifying and driving force among America's slaves. Spirituals, as many of these songs came to be called, expressed faith in God, helped make work more bearable, and also revealed plans to revolt. The songs' lyrics offer a glimpse of the true horror slaves endured as well as a hope and faith that one day they would be free. The voice for generations of African Americans, these songs laid the groundwork for the development of other forms of music in America. 

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers was the first group to publicly perform the songs of slaves and they shared them with the world. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers first performed in the late 1800s, they sang ballads and patriotic anthems; it was their director, George White, who suggested that they sing the songs of their ancestors. The group was hesitant at first to expose this sacred music but agreed to add a few spirituals to their program. The music was well-received, often moving audiences to tears. With their performances, the Jubilee Singers were able to keep alive these songs of the past and reveal the emotions and strong faith of the African American slave. 

The following songs were recorded for use in the film "Jubilee Singers." "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "Steal Away" are part of the Jubilee Singers traditional repertoire. 

Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray

An’ I couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray,

In the valley,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
On my knees, 
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
With my burden,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
An’ my Savior,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

Chilly waters,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
In the Jordan,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
Crossing over,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
Into Canaan,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

Hallejuh!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
Troubles over, 
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
In the Kingdom,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray,
With my Jesus,
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.

O Lord!

I couldn’t hear nobody pray,
O Lord!
Couldn’t hear nobody pray.
O-way down yonder 
By myself,
I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

singers_songs_sheet_steal.jpg
Sheet music for Steal Away

Steal Away

CHORUS:
Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain’t got long to stay here.

My Lord calls me, he calls me by the thunder;
The trumpet sounds it in my soul, 
I hain’t got long to stay here.

CHORUS

Green trees are bending, poor sinners stand trembling;
The trumpet sounds it in my soul,
I hain’t got long to stay here.

CHORUS

My Lord calls me, he calls me by the lightning;
The trumpet sounds it in my soul,
I hain’t got long to stay here.

CHORUS

Tombstones are bursting, poor sinners stand trembling;
The trumpet sounds it in my soul.
I hain’t got long to stay here.

singers_sweet chariot sheet.jpg
Sheet music for Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan and what did I see,
Coming for to carry me home? 
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends I’m coming too,
Coming for to carry me home.

The brightest day that ever I saw,
Coming for to carry me home.
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Coming for to carry me home.

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,
Coming for to carry me home,
But still my soul feels heavenly bound,
Coming for to carry me home.

If I Have My Ticket, Can I Ride?

If I have my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
If I have my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
If I have my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
Ride away to Heaven in that mornin'.

This is what we Christians ought to do;
Be certain an’ sure that we are livin’ true.
For bye an’ bye, without a doubt,
Jehovah’s gonna order his Angels out.
They will clean out the world an’ leave no sin, 
Now tell me, hypocrite, where you been?

I heard the sound of the Gospel train,
Don’t you want to get on? Yes, that’s my aim.
I’ll stand at the station an’ patiently wait
For the train that’s comin’, an’ she’s never late.
You must have you ticket stamped bright an’ clear,
Train is comin’, she’s drawin’ near.

Hope to be ready when the train do come,
My ticket all right an’ my work all done.
She’s so long comin’ till she worries my mind,
Seems to be late, but she’s just on time.

It keeps me always in a move an’ strain,
Tryin’ to be ready for the Gospel train.
Ever now an’ then, either day or night, 
I examine my ticket to see if I’m right.
If the Son grant my tickit the Holy Ghost sighn.
Then there is no way to be left behind.

There’s a great deal of talk ‘bout the Judgment Day,
You have no time for to trifle away.
I’ll tell you one thing certain an’ sho’,
Judgment Day’s comin’ when you don’t know.
I hope to be ready when I’m called to go,
If anything’s lackin’, Lord, let me know.

Help Me

Oh, in times like these, oh in times like these,
Yes, in times like these
I need the Lord to help me when I’m burdened down,
Oh, when I’m burdened down, 
When I’m burdened down, yes,
I need the Lord to help me. 
Come on and help me, Jesus, help me.
Come on and help me, Jesus. Help me, Lord.
I need the Lord to help me, [sinner] all alone.
Well, I’m all alone. 
Well, I’m all alone, you know.
I need the Lord to help me.
I need the Lord to help me when I’m by myself.
Oh, when I’m by myself, when I’m by myself,
Yes, I need the Lord to help me.
I need the Lord to help me.
Oh, in times like these, in times like these, in times like these, Lord,
I need the Lord to help me.
Come and help me, Jesus. Help me, Lord. 
Help me, Jesus. Help me, Lord.
Help me, Jesus. Help me, Lord.
I need the Lord to help me when I’m burdened down.
When I’m burdened down, when I’m burdened down, you know.
I need the Lord to help me.
Yes, I need the Lord to help me.
 

Support Provided by: Learn More