Rhiannon Giddens

Songs that bring history to life

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Transcript 8 languages
Transcribed by Leslie Gauthier
Reviewed by Camille Martínez
0:12

(Sings) Water Boy

0:21

(Guitar strum)

0:22

where are you hidin'?

0:27

(Guitar strum)

0:29

If you don't come right here, I'm gonna tell your pa on you.

0:39

(Guitar strum)

0:40

There ain't no hammer —

0:45

(Guitar strum)

0:46

that's on this mountain

0:50

(Guitar strum)

0:51

That ring like mine, boy —

0:55

(Guitar strum)

0:56

that ring like mine.

1:00

(Guitar strum)

1:01

I'm gonna bust this rock, boy —

1:05

(Guitar strum)

1:06

from here to Macon.

1:10

(Guitar strum)

1:11

All the way to the jail, boy —

1:15

(Guitar strum)

1:16

all the way to the jail.

1:19

(Guitar strum)

1:20

You jack of diamonds —

1:24

(Music)

1:26

you jack of diamonds I know you of old boy, I know you of old. You done robbed my pocket, you done robbed my pocket of silver and gold, boy, of silver and gold.

2:01

Water Boy, where are you hidin'? If you don't come right here, I'm gonna tell your pa on you. There ain't no hammer that's on this mountain that ring like mine, boy, that ring like mine.

2:40

I'm gonna bust this rock, boy, from here to Macon. All the way to the jail, boy, all the way to the jail.

2:59

Water Boy

3:09

(Guitar strum)

3:10

where are you hidin'?

3:14

(Guitar strum)

3:15

If you don't come right here, if you don't come right here, if you don't come right here, I'm gonna tell your pa on you.

3:34

(Guitar strum)

3:35

(Applause)

3:45

Thank you.

3:49

That was a song based on numerous work songs, and it was arranged by Odetta, a hero of mine. And this next song, well, I do a lot of historical music, starting with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and continuing on in my solo endeavors. And I believe that knowing your history as a musician is super important — it's important as a person, it's important as a country, it's important as a people.

4:14

So I read a lot about where the music comes from and where this country comes from. I've been reading a lot about the Civil War and about slavery. And it's really tough. You know? It's really tough reading. And so as an artist, what I do with all that emotion, reading these people's stories, not just, "Oh, slavery was terrible." Yes, it was. But it's reading individual narratives of how it was for these people. You know? Then it's like, "Yeah, that could've been me." And it is people now. You know? So what you do with all that emotion is you've got to do something with it. As an artist, I write. So I wrote a song based on some of those narratives that I read, and it's called, "Come Love Come." We're going to do it for you now.

4:59

(Claps)

5:05

(Sings) Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

5:19

(Music)

5:32

(Sings) When I was four, my loving mam was cornered by the boss's man. She turned her head and got struck down, they buried her in the cold, cold ground.

5:45

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

5:58

(Music)

6:05

When I was 12, my father dear was strong of arm and free of fear until the day he raised his hand, then he was sold to Alabama.

6:18

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

6:31

(Music)

6:44

When I was 16, found my bloom and found my man, we jumped the broom. We pledged each other the rest of our lives and on Saturday nights we were man and wife.

6:57

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

7:10

(Music)

7:23

When I was 18, bugles called and boys in blue came o'er the wall. I took my chance and followed free, they led the way to Tennessee.

7:36

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

7:49

(Music)

8:01

Now here I sit in a tiny shack with 13 others at my back. I've sent you word, so all I can do is wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for you.

8:23

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

8:36

Come love come, the road lies low, the way is long and hard, I know. Come love come, the road lies free, I'll wait for you in Tennessee.

8:57

Oh, oh, oh. Whoa ... oh I'll wait for you.

9:18

I'll wait for you. I'll wait for you I'll wait for you.

9:28

(Applause)

9:42

Thank you.

9:44

So, with the dark you have to have the light. And in the African-American community, it's been the work of many hundreds of years to find a way to lift ourselves up. So I'm going to end with a couple of tunes from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the more influential American music figures that most of you probably never heard of. If you have, I'm so happy. She's one of the innovators of rock 'n' roll guitar, and one of the first crossover artists from gospel to secular. She's an incredibly important figure, and I'm going to talk about her whenever I can. So these are a couple of her tunes. And don't worry — you're going to get your chance to sing.

10:20

(Music)

10:30

(Sings) Look down, look down that lonesome road before you travel on.

10:40

Look up, look up and greet your maker, for Gabriel blows his horn.

10:51

Weary totin' such a load, goin' down that lonesome road. Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on.

11:10

Look down, look down that lonesome road before you travel on.

11:19

Look up, look up and greet your maker, for Gabriel blows his horn.

11:30

Weary totin' such a load, goin' down that lonesome road.

11:38

Look down, look down, look down, look down that lonesome road before you travel on.

11:47

Up above my head up above my head I hear music in the air music in the air.

11:52

Up above my head up above my head I hear music in the air I hear music in the air.

11:57

Up above my head up above my head I hear music in the air music in the air

12:02

and I really do believe I really do believe there's a Heaven somewhere.

12:06

Up above my head up above my head I hear singin' in the air singin' in the air.

12:11

Up above my head up above my head I hear singin' in the air I hear singin' in the air.

12:16

Up above my head up above my head I hear singin' in the air singin' in the air and I really do believe I really do believe there's a Heaven somewhere.

12:24

(Speaks) All right now, guitar man!

12:26

(Guitar music)

12:39

That's Hubby Jenkins, y'all.

12:43

(Sings) Up above my head up above my head I hear shoutin' in the air shoutin' in the air.

12:48

Up above my head up above my head I hear shoutin' in the air I hear shoutin' in the air.

12:53

Up above my head up above my head I hear shoutin' in the air, that's right, and I really do believe I really do believe there's a heaven somewhere.

13:01

(Speaks) All right now, give me some of that bass.

13:04

(Bass solo)

13:12

Yeah! Woo!

13:16

Jason Sypher on the bass.

13:19

Jamie Dick on those drums.

13:23

All right now, I'm running out of time. So it's time for y'all to sing. This is the call-and-response. I call, you respond. There are so many songs like this, y'all know how it goes, don't you? You're going to sing along? I said, are you going to sing along?

13:37

Audience members: Yes!

13:38

Rhiannon Giddens: Here we go!

13:39

(Sings) Up above my head

13:41

AM: up above my head

13:42

RG: music in the air

13:43

AM: music in the air.

13:44

RG: up above my head

13:45

AM: up above my head

13:47

RG: music in the air

13:48

AM: music in the air

13:49

RG: up above my head

13:50

AM: up above my head

13:51

RG: music in the air

13:53

AM: music in the air

13:54

RG: and I really do believe I really do believe there's a heaven somewhere.

13:57

One more time!

13:58

Up above my head

14:00

AM: up above my head

14:01

RG: I hear music in the air

14:02

AM: music in the air.

14:03

RG: Up above my head

14:04

AM: up above my head

14:06

RG: I hear music in the air

14:07

AM: music in the air.

14:08

RG: Up above my head

14:09

AM: up above my head

14:11

RG: I hear music in the air

14:12

AM: music in the air

14:13

RG: and I really do believe I really do believe there's a heaven somewhere. I said I really do believe I really do believe there's a heaven somewhere.

14:22

Heaven somewhere.

14:27

(Holds note)

14:30

(Applause and cheers)

14:34

(Music ends)

14:35

(Applause)

Rhiannon Giddens pours the emotional weight of American history into her music. Listen as she performs traditional folk ballads — including "Waterboy," "Up Above My Head," and "Lonesome Road" by Sister Rosetta Tharp — and one glorious original song, "Come Love Come," inspired by Civil War-era slave narratives.

About the speaker
Rhiannon Giddens · Musician

With a rich voice and an equally rich sense of history, Rhiannon Giddens animates American folk tradition with her electrifying song interpretations.

With a rich voice and an equally rich sense of history, Rhiannon Giddens animates American folk tradition with her electrifying song interpretations.