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"Gonna be the Death of You"  Harry's CD

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Dark Was The Night

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In Lawrence Cohn's book "Nothing but the Blues", one can find a rather unlikely history of the composition and later arrangement of this song. In Cohn's book, there is a section called "The Gospel Tradition" that was researched and written by Mark A. Humphrey. Thomas Haweis was an English physician and clergyman who wrote this song and hundreds of other hymns. Its original title was "Gethsemane" and was published in a book of hymns dated 1792. It is among the many hymns that were taught to American Negro slaves in the 1800's by British missionaries.

Humphrey also quotes Lead Belly as a descriptive source of how this song might have been sung in church:

"The Amen corner sisters, the ones who do the moanin', starts out... and when the men is praying, to give 'em some spirit, they'd moan behind 'em and that would make 'em pray."

Humphrey writes of Blind Willie Johnson's recording:

"Beautiful and austere, the performance uses the silences between notes to create a tension both oppressive and elevating."

Blind Willie Johnson's recording of this song is most often heard by contemporary musicians when researching this song, but there were many others. Ry Cooder, whose arrangement I have studied, calls this the "Music of the Spheres" and has used it in many ways.