I Bid You Goodnight (The Christian's Good-Night)
DESCRIPTION: Funeral hymn/spiritual, recognized by the chorus line, "And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight." The hymn form describes a farewell and the afterlife. Other versions encourage repentance or sound almost like a lullaby
AUTHOR: Probably Sarah Doudney (see NOTES)
EARLIEST DATE: 1871 (Doudney, Psalms of Life, according to Julian); traditional version probably 1965 (Spense and Pindar Family)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Funeral hymn/spiritual, recognized by the chorus line, "And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight." The hymn form describes a farewell and the afterlife. Other versions encourage repentance or sound almost like a lullaby, e.g. "Lay down my dear brother, Lay down and take your rest, I want you lay your head now upon your Saviour's breast, I love you, O but Jesus loves you the best, O I bid you good night, Lord, good night, Lord, good night"
KEYWORDS: death funeral religious nonballad
FOUND IN: US Britain(England(North)) West Indies(Bahamas,Jamaica)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
ADDITIONAL: Olive Lewin, "Rock It Come Over" - The Folk Music of Jamaica (Barbados: The University of the West Indies Press, 2000), p. 134, "Sleep on Beloved" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST DTbidgni (Full)
Men from Andros Island, "I Bid You Goodnight" (on LomaxCD1822-2)
Five Gospel Souls [pseud. for the Five Soul Stirrers] "Sleep On Darling Mother" (Ebony 137, rec. 1945)
Lonnie McIntorsh, "Sleep On, Mother, Sleep On" (Victor 21271, 1928)
Mound City Jubilee Quartette, "Sleep On, Darling Mother" (Decca 7158, 1936; rec. 1935)
Joseph Spence and the Pindar Family,"I Bid You Good Night" (1995, "The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead," Shanachie CD 6014)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, "Sleep On, Darling Mother" (Decca 8657, 1944; rec. 1943)
Lena Thompson, Lucy Scott, & Lucy Smith, "Sleep On" (on VaWork)
NOTES: This song has an incredibly tangled history. Bob Bovee tells me that he found a 78 of this song: "It's by Lonnie McIntorsh with the title 'Sleep On, Mother, Sleep On' (Victor 21271). He's [a] black gospel singer with guitar recorded in Memphis in 1928."
A version credited to F. A. and J. E. Sankey appeared in the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal in 1928.
In 1936, Hazel Felleman's The Best Loved Poems of the American People (pp. 342-343) lists a version as by Sarah Doudney. This is probably the best attribution; according to John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 1590:
Sleep On, beloved, sleep and take thy rest. Sarah Doudney. [Death Anticipated.] Pub[lished] in her Ps[alms] of Life 1871, p. 76, in 7 st[anzas] of 3 l[ines], with the refrain, "Good night." It is entitled "The Christian's 'Good night,'" and is headed with the following sentence, "The early Christians were accustomed to bid their dying friends 'Good night!' so sure were they of awakening at the Resurrection morning."
(Perhaps Doudney wrote the lyrics, with the Sankeys adding a tune?)
And then there is the recording by Joseph Spence/Spense, with what amounts to only a single verse, applied to different relatives. It's hardly even the same song.
This hymn thoroughly deserves a detailed research project. Did the Sankeys write it, or just adapt it? Which versions of the song are traditional, and where? Did Spence create his version, or did it exist before him? I can't answer any of these questions from my library. - RBW
Spence's version is quite similar to another, collected in the Bahamas in 1935 by Alan Lomax; both include traditional Bahamian "rhyming" -- improvised verses over a sung or chanted background. And to another, found in Virginia in 1980 among crabpickers, who sang it as they worked.
It's also found in Yorkshire, and interestingly enough it is used there as a lowering-down song at funerals, just as it is in the Bahamas. - PJS
[The final words of the Long] Description [are] the first verse of the recording: " ... this version by the Pindar Family on a 1965 Nonesuch album called THE REAL BAHAMAS ... was very popular in folk circles because it featured performances by the legendary Bahamian guitarist and singer of sacred tunes, Joseph Spence (who was Jenny Pindar's brother)" (Blair Jackson, liner notes on "The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead", p. 22, Shanachie CD 6014), 1995). The verse is repeated with "my dear brother" replaced by "brother Spence" or "brother Pindar." The end of the verse is sometimes sung over by the leader with lines like "Oh in the morning now early and soon," "Walking in Jerusalem just like John," "John said I saw the number," "these are the children that would not be good," and "Join the words that I saw the sign."
Compare this to Sankey #216, "I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'Come unto me and rest: Lay down, thy weary one, lay down Thy head upon my breast" (Ira D. Sankey, Sacred Songs and Solos (London: Collins, n.d.), #216, also known as "Hear the Voice of Jesus." Also "My Number Will Be Changed": "I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'Come unto me and rest, Lay down, you weary wand'rer, your head upon my breast." - BS
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