Behind the Song: Deep River

Deep River is an African-American spiritual with unknown origins.

The song was first printed in the 1876,  The Story of the Jubilee Singers: With Their Songs, by J. B. T. Marsh.

Harry T. Burleigh

In 1917, Harry T. Burleigh completed the last of several influential arrangements.

The song became very popular in recitals of the early 20th Century.

The song was used in the 1929 film version of Show Boat, the 1940 movie The Proud Valley and the 1983 hit  National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Classical composer Michael Tippett used Deep River as one of the five spirituals included in his oratorio for A Child of Our Time, which was first performed in 1944.

Deep River “has been called “perhaps the best known and best-loved spiritual”.

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