Coded messages: Peace Song for 1/11/2012

“Follow The Drinkin’ Gourd” is the Peace Song of the Day for January 11, 2012. You can find lyrics, chords, and resources for this song at the Rise Up Singing songbook on page 59.

This is an African American spiritual. It contained secret messages for slaves about how they could use astronomy to find their way to the first stop on “The Underground Railroad”, and travel North to freedom.


Lyrics
Follow The Drinking Gourd
Traditional

When the sun comes back,
and the first Quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

Chorus:
Follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

The riverbank will make a very good road,
The dead trees show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot traveling on,
Following the drinking gourd.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd,
There’s another river on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.

When the great big river meets the little river,
Follow the drinking gourd.
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

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There is a great video of the children’s show Reading Rainbow, with the episode “Follow The Drinking Gourd”, at Youtube: here. At 6mins4secs it explains how slaves used the Drinking Gourd/Big Dipper constellation to find the way North. At 14mins2secs (and at the end) are songs and interviews with the women’s a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

The song Follow the Drinking Gourd can be found on the album Did You Hear That? from 2007 Parents’ Choice Award winners Fox and Branch.

There is also the CD Rabbit Ears Treasury of African American Heroes: Follow the Drinking Gourd; John Henry which has a story based on the song told by Morgan Freeman with original music by Taj Mahal.

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Related post:
A poem and a song for Harriet Tubman at Peace Couple: here.

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Note: This song was actually announced/published on January 29, 2012, as part of a marathon catch-up session for the Peace Song of the Day project! Putting it back in chronological order for flow.

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