Amazing Grace of the Rising Sun

On this blog on 11/17/15, “The House of the Writhing Pun”, I wrote about “The House of the Rising Sun”, with Wikipedia notes on the folk song and a link to The Animals’ 1964 recordng of it; and added this note about the meter of the text:

Common meter: four lines of iambs, alternating tetrameter and trimeter: With the 2nd and 4th lines rhyming, An enormous number of texts — “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Amazing Grace”, for example — can be sung to this tune.

I hadn’t realized that one of these possibilities had been realized by serious musicians until this morning, when during hours of Christmas and Jesus music, public radio station KRCB in Santa Rosa CA broadcast a Blind Boys of Alabama recording of “Amazing Grace” (the text) sung to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun”. Really quite moving. You can watch a live performance of it here.

More fun with C.M. for XmasOn 11/29/11, in “Rudolph in Northfield”, on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, singable to the tune of the Sacred Harp song “Northfield” (#155: “How long, dear Savior, O how long / Shall this bright hour delay”). I have actually done this. (And now my grand-daughter is at Northfield Mount Hermon School, in that Northfield. But without Rudolph.)

“The House of the Rising Sun”. From Wikipedia:

“The House of the Rising Sun” is a traditional folk song, sometimes called “Rising Sun Blues”. It tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans; many versions also urge a sibling to avoid the same fate. The most successful commercial version, recorded in 1964 by British rock group the Animals, was a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart and also in the United States and France. As a traditional folk song recorded by an electric rock band, it has been described as the “first folk rock hit”.

As a folk song, a blues song, and a pop song, it’s been recorded by almost everybody you’ve ever heard of. Including a French version by Johnny Hallyday, who died on the 5th of this month. You can watch a Hallyday performance here of “Le Pénitencier – House of the Rising Sun” (?from 1982). About the artist, from Wikipedia:

Johnny Hallyday on stage, young and shirtless

Jean-Philippe Léo Smet (15 June 1943 – 5 December 2017), better known by his stage name Johnny Hallyday, was a French rock and roll and pop singer and actor, in France credited for having imported rock and roll there.

During a career spanning 57 years, he released 79 albums and sold more than 80 million records worldwide, mainly in the French-speaking world, making him one of the best-selling artists in France and in the world

More from KRCB. This morning’s mix of Christmas and Jess songs was wildly varied. A lot of terribly cute Xmas songs, some Xmas carols, a whole lot of the Blind Boys (they performed at Green Music Center at Sonoma State Sept. 28th-30th; and Marc Cohn and the Blind Boys are playing there on Jan. 18th), and a number of c&w-tinged Jesus songs, including “Drop Kick Me, Jesus” by Bobby Bare (1976) (“the world’s only Christian football waltz”, words and music by Paul Charles Craft); you can listen to it here. The text:


Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life
End over end, neither left nor to right
Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life


Make me, oh make me, Lord more than I am
Make me a piece in your master game plan
Free from the earthly temptations below
I’ve got the will, Lord if you’ve got the toe

Bring on the brothers who’ve gone on before
And all of the sisters who’ve knocked on your door
All the departed dear loved ones of mine
Stick them up front in the offensive line

2 Responses to “Amazing Grace of the Rising Sun”

  1. Meg Moore Says:

    I’ve also heard Amazing Grace sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. And if you want to annoy a former U.S. Marine, sing the Marine Corps Hymn (From the Halls of Montezuma) to the tune of Oh My Darling, Clementine!

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Ah, Gilligan! Comments on my 11/29/11 posting “Borrowing texts”:

      Susan Fischer: You know about Emily Dickinson and “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, right?

      AZ: Oh, my yes; my favorite is perhaps “Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me”. There are some videos.

      And then there’s “Stairway to Gilligan” — the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme sung to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.

      From Wikipedia:

      Little Roger and the Goosebumps is a pop/rock band from San Francisco active during the 1970s and early 1980s and resurrected in 2006. It has been led throughout its history by Roger Clark and Dick Bright, with various sidemen.

      The band is best known for its single “Gilligan’s Island (Stairway)” a song combining the lyrics to the theme song of the television show Gilligan’s Island with the music of “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The band wrote the song in 1977 as “material to pad the last set of the grueling 5 nights a week/4 sets a night routine,” recorded it in March 1978, and released it as a single in May 1978 on their own Splash Records label. Led Zeppelin’s management threatened a copyright infringement lawsuit against the label, its attorneys demanding that all copies be destroyed, and the band withdrew the song, seeing their legal resources as inadequate. The song was reissued in 2000 on the CD Laguna Tunes with the song title renamed “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island.”

      You can watch the video here.

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