(To learn how to play, watch the video at bottom of page)
John Wesley Work, Jr. is credited for Go Tell It On The Mountain, but as a compiler rather than the original writer. It was previously known as a traditional African-American spiritual dating back to 1865 and possibly further.
I’ve always thought of it as just a hymn… not ‘just’ as in ‘to belittle’ the song, but ‘just’ as in ‘I thought it was suitable to be played or sung at any time’. As it turns out, Go Tell It On The Mountain is categorized as a Christmas carol. It makes sense; we’re spreading the word “…that Jesus Christ is born.” I just never thought of it in that respect before. Sometimes we know things, but don’t think them through. For me, this was one of those times.
What I feel about a hymn is the result of a complex amalgam of melody, meaningful message, whether it invokes childhood memories or other emotional connections. Often mood plays a large part. Usually my favorites are lively, cheerful gospel songs. Sometimes the mood is better suited to a soft and sweet melody.
For me, “Go Tell It” is suitable for all times. It can be sung in a slow and soulful manner, but for me it tends to be a cheerful, playful, happy song. Why not? The message is a joyous one. We should feel good about it.
One of my favorite groups, Peter, Paul, and Mary, did their own version in the early 1960’s. In that time and political clime, it was aimed more at the Civil Rights movement. Done with their unique style, I still enjoy hearing it. Simon and Garfunkel have also paid homage to ‘Go Tell It’, as has Jim Nabors (I love his voice!) and The Kingston Trio… among many other well-known and not-so-well-known names.
Count my name among the ‘not-so-well-known’ group… but I’m proud to be part of that fellowship, and grateful for the opportunity of sharing my own take on Go Tell It On The Mountain. I hope you enjoy it!