This Little Light of Mine

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"This Little Light of Mine"
Gospel song by Harry Dixon Loes
Written 1920s
This Little Light of Mine - Beaufort Male Voice Choir

"This Little Light of Mine" is a gospel song written for children in the 1920s by Harry Dixon Loes. It was later adapted by Zilphia Horton, amongst many other activists, in connection with the civil rights movement.[1] Although the words of the song have a Biblical theme, it is unclear as to which specific Bible verse it is based upon. Today, many versions of the song are available.

History

Harry Dixon Loes, who studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the American Conservatory of Music, was a musical composer and teacher, who wrote or co-wrote several other gospel songs. The song has since entered the folk tradition, first being collected by John Lomax in 1939. Often thought of as a Negro spiritual, it can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal, #585[2], adapted by William Farley Smith in 1987.

The song takes its theme from some of Jesus's remarks to his followers. Matthew 5:14-16 gives: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven." The parallel passage in Luke 11:33 gives: "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light."[3]

Versions

The song has also been secularised into "This Little Girl of Mine" as recorded by Ray Charles[4] in 1956 and later The Everly Brothers. It has often been published with a set of hand movements to be used for the instruction of children.

Under the influence of Zilphia Horton, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others, it eventually became a Civil Rights anthem in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the version by Betty Fikes.[5] The Seekers recorded it for their second UK album, Hide & Seekers (also known as The Four & Only Seekers) in 1964. Over time it also became a very popular children's song, recorded and performed by the likes of Raffi in the 1980s.

Odetta and the Boys Choir of Harlem performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman on September 17, 2001, on the first show after Letterman resumed broadcasting, after having been off the air for several nights following the events of 9/11.[6]

LZ7 took their version of the song named "This Little Light" to number 26 in the UK Singles Chart.

The song is sung in several scenes of the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta.

References

  1. ^ "Is "This Little Light of Mine" Really a Slave Spiritual Song?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  2. ^ United Methodist Hymnal, The (1989). This Little Light of Mine #585. Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House. p. 585. 
  3. ^ "The New Sounds for Christ in Zimbabwe – This Little Light Of Mine." The Daily Kos, October 6, 2008. Accessed June 7, 2009.
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. 
  5. ^ "Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom". Smithsonian Folkways. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  6. ^ "Boys Choir Of Harlem News". Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 

External links

  • Spiritual lyrics
  • Top 10 Civil Rights songs
  • Sung by German Students on YouTube
  • This Little Light of Mine for choir.
  • recording by Derek Lee Ragin of "This Little Light of Mine"
  • "This Little Light of Mine" Doris McMurray, Goree Farm, Huntsville, TX: John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip.
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