RIVERS OF BABYLON

Latest update on 09/10/2016

Artist: Ossie Davis
Author: traditional
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
Year: 1960

Lyrics literally lifted from Psalm 137 and Psalm 19, verse 14, linking Afro-Americans with the people from Israel. Word for word the beginning of a speech by the black activist Frederick Douglas on July 5th, 1852 in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, NY about the hypocrisy of the American democracy in general and the meaning of the 4th of July for blacks in particular. Copy of this speech (by Ossie Davis) is to be heard on the Smithsonian-Folkways collection Every Tone A Testimony: The Meaning Of July 4 For The Negro - What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July? Ossie's the father of bluesman Guy Davis.

Covers:

1962:

SL Smith [as Zion Oh Lord]

1969:

Melodians [Jamaican reggae group around Brent Dowe; song also used in film The Harder They Come; the main musical motiv is the same as 1:14 into Bert Williams' 1919 version of When The Moon Shines On The Moonshine (Frances DeWitt/Robert Hood Bowers)]

1972:

Don McLean [as Babylon on lp American Pie]

1976:

Linda Ronstadt [on Hasten Down The Wind with Andrew Gold and Kenny Edwards]

1978:

U-Roy

1978:

Boney M [n°1 UK, B & NL]

1978:

Strangers [as Den Dopper, hit B]

1988:

Sweet Honey In The Rock [as Waters Of Babylon]

1992:

Evangeline

1995:

Steve Earle

1996:

Merciless [as Rivers Of Girls]

2004:

Neville Brothers

2004:

Bayou Mosquitos

2007:

Sinéad O'Connor

Boney M's version was the best selling UK single since Mull Of Kintyre. See also: Brown Girl In The Ring.

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