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Go Tell It on the Mountain

(Traditional African-American spiritual/transcribed by John Wesley Work Jr.)

This song  is thought to be a traditional African-American spiritual that was sung by slaves on plantations where it was passed along orally rather than have being written down.

The composer John Wesley Work Jr. collected it and adapted it and was the first to publish it in 1901, though it has been a debatable subject on him being the original writer as some have thought it could have been his brother Frederick Jerome Work in 1902.  The song was published in the second edition of his New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1901.

It has been sung as a Christmas carol with the line “go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born” but has also been sung as an Easter song with the line changed to “go tell it on the mountain that Jesus lives again”.

Many singers, groups and choirs have performed the song and it became a chart song for Peter, Paul and Mary when it reached No. 33 on the US singles chart in 1963.  Simon & Garfunkel released it on their Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. in 1964 and in 2021 Little Big Town’s version of it reached No. 35 on the Hit Country Songs chart.

A selection of the many other recordings it has been performed on include Go Tell It on the Mountain by The Blind Boys of Alabama, Go Tell It on the Mountain by Booker T., The Complete Christmas Recordings by Ray Conniff, Home for Christmas by Sheryl Crow, The 25th Day of December by Bobby Darin, Acoustic Christmas by Neil Diamond, Bluegrass Christmas by Craig Duncan, The Greatest Gift of All by Rascal Flatts, Christmas with Thomas Hampson by Thomas Hampson, Country Mountain Christmas where it is sung by Jimi Hendrix, A Sunshine Christmas by KC & The Sunshine Band, Trench Town Rock by Bob Marley & The WailersChristmas by Don McLean, Christmas with Nana Mouskouri by Nana Mouskouri, Jim Nabor’s Christmas Album by Jim Nabors, Home for the Holidays where it is sung by The Oak Ridge Boys, Home for Christmas by Dolly Parton, The Christmas Collection by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The 25th Day of December by The Staple Singers and James Taylor at Christmas by James Taylor along with numerous compilations.

Robert Shaw Chorale and Orchestra recordings
RCA 6429 – 2 – RG (CD: A Festival of Carols)
(Arrangers – Robert Shaw/Alice Parker)