Calvin Earl
I Travel The Back Roads Of America In Search Of The Elements Of Peace In Our Musical Heritage & History.

SPIRITUALS VS. FREEDOM SONGS

The African American Spiritual ‘Keep Your Hands On The Plow’, was transformed into an American freedom song during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s & 1960’s. The name of the song became known as “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize”, and the lyrics changed to reflect the times. The melody stayed the same and the principle purpose of the song stayed the same, which was to stay focused on the issue at hand. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the issue at hand was the freedom to have the same human and civil rights as every man in America, no matter the color of your skin or ethnicity. The lyrics to this Civil Rights song have often been accredited to Alice Wine, although we have no proof of that fact. In any case the lyrics are heartfelt and powerful. And once again the transformation of a spiritual into a modern day music, served the same purpose. Through the musical arts, people have found ways of finding freedom, justice, human and civil rights for all mankind in a format that reaches for your soul. In doing so it allowed unrepresented voices to be heard in a time when they didn’t have a voice. My own personal favorite rendition of this freedom song is by Mavis Staples.

Spiritual song lyrics:
KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE PLOW

Hold on
Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

Heard the voice of Jesus say
Come unto me , I am the way
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on
When my way gets dark as night,
I know the lord will be my light,
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

Hold on
Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

You can talk about me much as you please
the more you talk, gonna stay on my knees
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

Hold on
Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

When I get to heaven, gonna sing and shout
Be nobody there to put me out
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on
I know my robe’s gonna fit me well,
I tried it on at the gates of Hell
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on,
Hold on, hold on,
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on

Freedom song lyrics:

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE

Paul and Silas, bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!

Paul and Silas began to shout
Doors popped open, and they walked out
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!

Well, the only chains that we can stand
Are the chains of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Got my hand on the freedom plow
Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your Eyes on the Prize, hold on!

Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
(Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on)
(Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on)

BEYOND THE LABELS

BEYOND THE LABELS / SONGS ON OUR ROAD TO FREEDOM is a WE THE PEOPLE story in song. Experience America’s music from Spirituals, Freedom Songs, Jazz, Blues, Protest Songs, Songs of Hope, and Songs of Love. FREEDOM has always been a powerful thought for Americans, and music brings that thought of freedom to life.

Communal singing has always been an intricate part of our multi cultural roots as Americans. Whether we arrived as willing immigrants or as immigrants by force, no matter what country we came from originally music helped ground us and helped us feel connected to our new homeland. Our newly created music, spoke of our lives in the new world and helped calm fears, put our babies to sleep, brought enjoyment sung around a campfire and comfort in times of sorrow.

Singing together brought us together and strengthen our purpose and strengthened our community spirit. It still does today. This program is about coming together and singing together to continue building a strong community that is inclusive of all of us.

Thomas Jefferson proposed in written word a purpose and direction for our nations creed. Music created by humble unnamed slaves, and well known songwriters helped us feel that purpose with passion and dedication to ensure our nations creed belongs to all of us.

Book Calvin Earl in your community and experience these inspiring songs in our American History!

QUESTIONS FOR CALVIN ABOUT THE SPIRITUALS

posted in: Blog, Spirituals | 2

‘Questions about the spirituals’ is the newest addition to my blog on the history of the spirituals. Here is the first question:

What did you learn about yourself from the African American Spiritual culture?

Great question. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with you my love for the spirituals and their history.

Firstly, what I have learned is the gift of music created from within the human soul can enhance, change and transform the life of the listener. Music heals, creates a space for joy and fulfillment and has the ability to transform and transcend any situation in the listeners ear even in the midst of human suffering and pain. In the case of spirituals these amazing songs allowed the slaves to be heard during a time when they were not allowed to have a voice. Their secret communications within these songs not only changed the course of history, thankfully it preserved their oral history, healed their pain, and paid forward to their children the idea that fortitude, courage and resilience will ultimately give them their God given human right of freedom that belongs to all God’s children.

Secondly, what I have been given from the music of my ancestors, is an overwhelming sense of pride in all the slaves accomplishments both in music and otherwise all in spite of the fact, to this day their contributions in building a new nation or the gift of an original music they gave to the world are not acknowledged or are still under-acknowledged. Never the less I am a very fortunate man to have been born into such a rich ancestral lineage.

Thirdly, the spirituals taught me to never give up, when someone tells you, you can’t do something, I don’t accept that outcome, and instead I go within and listen to my heart. For me, music and the spirituals have been a way I go within to connect with my soul/true self.

As an example, when I was a young boy, I am the baby of 9, my family was extremely poor and many times we went without food to eat and we moved frequently because my parents couldn’t afford to pay the rent. The minute I played a spiritual on my guitar my hunger pains and the fear of not knowing if we might move in the dark of night again went away. I felt secure within myself when I could play the music or hear it. The stigma and fear of growing up poor seemed to disappear. So I played, and played and played music to comfort my fears. Each time the spirituals made me feel whole again.

As an adult, playing music keeps me grounded, it keeps me in touch with who I am and where I came from. The music teaches me to be grateful every moment of every day.

Do you have a question for me? I’d love to hear from you.

21st CENTURY AFRICAN AMERICAN SPIRITUALS

African American spirituals in the 21st century are dependent upon all of us to keep their sound alive. The deep roots of our American oral history & original music invite you to connect with others to honor the gifts from our ancestors by sharing Our Stories, Our History and Our Music with the world. Knowledge is power. By sharing this vibrant rich music & the oral history of our American roots with the world we can overcome the obstacles that for years have kept this information underground.

You see, after slavery ended our slave brothers and sisters wanted to forget everything that reminded them of slavery and that included their spirituals. We can all understand why. But by giving up the spirituals they had created during slavery to find inner strength, safety, courage and that connection to the power that created us all, now the freed slaves, and every generation after that would succumb to those external voices that would have us believe the thoughts, if you are a descendant of the people who were labeled with the word slave you aren’t good enough, you aren’t smart enough, and you are less than perfect. The truth is, we are all people in spite of any label we have been given. It is how we perceive ourselves that is the measure of the man. It is deeply concerning that the original intention & sound of the spirituals will be lost forever, just like the 6000+ fragments of these songs housed in the Library of Congress that will never be heard in their entirety if we don’t join together and tell our story.

Thankfully in 2007 the US Congress unanimously passed Twin Resolutions to honor our American slave brothers and sisters for their contributions to our nation with our deepest gratitude and respect and recognize the African American Spirituals as a National Treasure. Join the social community, to share the gifts of your ancestors, and the spirituals your grandmother used to sing to you with all of us. Stop by my website and share your stories, I’d love to hear from you! Watch the video to see my own journey and what it took to secure the spirituals as an American national treasure in 2007.

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