Who will be Comin’ Round the Mountain?

Roger McGuinn’s Folkden song for November is “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain [when she comes].” Roger notes in his description of the song:

Widely believed to be a children’s song, “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” has some interesting roots. It was derived from a spiritual, “When the Chariot Comes” about the second coming of Jesus Christ and the subsequent Rapture. In this version “she” refers to union organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, who traveled the southern United States to promote the formation of labor unions in the Appalachian coal mining camps.
The song was also popular with railroad work gangs in the Midwestern United States in the 1890s.

This variation with the answers “Yum Yum, Hi Babe, Whoa Back, Yee Ha” was one my wife Camilla learned as a child in her Beaufort, South Carolina elementary school.

6 White Horses - from Folkden.com

Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index, here at ibiblio, lists a number of versions and alternatives including: Old Ship of Zion ; When the Chariot Comes (noted also by Roger); If You’re All for Freedom ; Ten Virgins; If You Want to Get Your Freedom ; Ding Dong Dollar; She’ll Be Skiing Down the Mountain (from Songs for Swingin’ Housemothers) ; They’ll Be Coming Round ; Coming Down the Chimney (by Raffi).

While “She’ll be coming round the mountain” isn’t the most reused and rewritten song in the folk tradition, it has had a very active life. At eTree.org, you can download a concert by the Funky Meters (2011 at the Brooklyn Bowl) during which “She’ll be coming round the mountain” is performed between “Iko Iko” and “Junco Partner” all just before “Midnight Rider” (Gregg Allman version).

If you are interested in Mary Harris “Mother” Jones’ life and times, an audio version of her Autobiography is available for free download from our friends and former ibiblio contributors at LibriVox.

Mother Jones via LibriVox.org