Michael Row the Boat Ashore


h1 May 1st, 2002

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The Georgia Sea Islands is a section of the United States rich in African American folk song. For over a hundred miles, these low flat islands decorate the Atlantic Coast. Here's where slaves were brought fresh from Africa and for generations, spent their entire lives out of touch with the mainland.

In olden days, transportation to the mainland was provided by small boats and strong arms to row them. The oar crews from different plantations prided themselves on their singing, each making up new songs that no other boat would ever sing.

Two of the best known songs whose roots are in this tradition of Georgia Sea Island singing are 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' and the more recent, 'Pay Me My Money Down.' I learned this song at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago when I was 15 years old. It's been one of my favorite songs ever since.

Lyrics:
[D] Michael row the boat ashore, [G] hallelujah [D]
[D] Michael [F#m] row the boat [Em] ashore, [D] halle [A] lu [D] jah

Sister help to trim the sails, hallelujah
Sister help to trim the sails, hallelujah

Jordan's River is deep and wide, hallelujah
And I've got a home on the other side, hallelujah

Jordan River is chilly and cold, hallelujah
Chills the body but not the soul, hallelujah

When I get to Heaven I'm gonna' sing and shout, hallelujah
Nobody there's gonna' kick me out, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah
Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

The trumpets sound the Jubilee, hallelujah
The trumpets sound for you and me, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

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