DESCRIPTION: Chorus: "The people cried mercy in the storm (x2), The colored and the white stay'd awake all night, Crying Lord have mercy in the storm." September 18, 1926 "crying was in vain," "they lost all they had," "many buildings down," Doctors and Red Cross come
AUTHOR: Judge Jackson (source: Dyen, Boyd; see notes)
EARLIEST DATE: 1934 (Jackson, _The Colored Sacred Harp_ according to Dyen; see notes)
KEYWORDS: disaster storm religious
Sep 18, 1926 - The "Great Miami Hurricane" (Source: Wikipedia article _1926 Miami Hurricane_, accessed Dec 18, 2016)
FOUND IN: US(SE)
Southeast Alabama and Florida Union Sacred Harp Singing Convention, "Florida Storm" (on USFlorida01)
Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers, "Florida Storm" (on "The Colored Sacred Harp," New World Records 80433-2 CD (1993))
NOTES: Hampton writes that "After the Civil War the Sacred Harp became a significant feature of African-American music culture" (Barbara L. Hampton, "The Colored Sacred Harp: A Songbook by Nineteenth Century African-Americans," liner notes for "The Colored Sacred Harp," New World Records 80433-2 CD (1993), unnum. p. 5).
We have other disaster ballads sung as church music (see, for example, Bessie Jones et al, "The Titanic" (Indexed as "Titanic (III), The ('God Moves on the Water') (Titanic #3)") but I don't know of other Sacred Harp disaster ballads.
Dyen: "This song was written by Judge Jackson, the black composer and compiler of the 1934 tunebook, The Colored Sacred Harp. According to folklorist Joe Dan Boyd, Jackson used a preexisting broadside text describing the first of two major hurricanes that hit Florida in the mid-1920s" (Doris J. Dyen, "Looking Back/Looking Forward: Sacred Group-Singing Traditions," USFlorida01 liner notes, p. 186).
Boyd: "...[W]hen Jackson's survivors and I rummaged through his memorabilia in 1969, we found an old but undated broadside sheet headlined 'subject: The Florida Storm' that carried the additional notation 'Composed by Frank Spencer, Ph.D." Spencer's long broadside contained no music, though one section was designated as the 'chorus,' and it carried a ten-cent price tag. Examination indicates that Jackson selected five stanzas that appealed to him and rewrote them slightly to conform to his tune's metrical requirements" (Joe dan Boyd, "Judge Jackson: Black Giant of White Spirituals" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 83, No. 330 (Oct-Dec 1970 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 448).
The Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers drops the last of Jackson's verses. Boyd apparently counted the chorus as one of Jackson's five verses. - BS
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