Louis Armstrong & Danny Kaye, When the Saints Go Marching In (video clip)

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Louis Armstrong & Danny Kaye, When the Saints Go Marching In




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When the Saints Go Marching In

"When the Saints Go Marching In," so well-known that it is often referred to as "The Saints," is a United States gospel hymn that has taken on certain aspects of folk music. Though it originated as a spiritual, today people are more likely to hear it played by a jazz band.

Uses

A traditional use of the song is as a funeral march. In the funeral music tradition of New Orleans, Louisiana, often called the "jazz funeral," while accompanying the coffin to the cemetery, a band would play the tune as a dirge. On the way back from the interment, it would switch to the familiar upbeat "hot" or "Dixieland" style. While the tune is still heard as a slow spiritual number on rare occasions, from the mid-20th century it has been massively more common as a "hot" number. The number remains particularly associated with the city of New Orleans, to the extent that New Orleans' professional football team was named the New Orleans Saints, after the song.

Both vocal and instrumental renditions of the song abound. Louis Armstrong was one of the first to make the tune into a nationally known pop-tune in the 1930s. Armstrong wrote that his sister told him she thought the secular performance style of the traditional church tune was inappropriate and irreligious. However, Armstrong was in a New Orleans tradition of turning church numbers into brass band and dance numbers that went back at least to Buddy Bolden's band at the very start of the 20th century.

The tune was brought into the early rock and roll repertory by Fats Domino and (as "The Saint's Rock and Roll") by Bill Haley & His Comets.

A true jazz standard, it has been recorded by a great many other jazz and pop artists. For lists and further details, see When the Saints Go Marching In (artists).

It is nicknamed "The Monster" by some jazz musicians, as it seems to be the only tune some people know to request when seeing a Dixieland band, and some musicians dread being asked to play it several times a night. The musicians at Preservation Hall in New Orleans got so tired of playing it that the sign announcing the fee schedule ran $1 for standard requests, $2 for unusual requests, and $5 for "The Saints." (This was in early 1960s dollars. By 2004 the price had gone up to $10.)

This well-known tune is also the theme/rallying song for a number of sports teams. For lists and further details, see When The Saints Go Marching In (sport).

The Rhodesian Light Infantry, also known as "The Saints," used it as their regimental march.

Lyrics

As with many numbers with long traditional folk use, there is no one "official" version of the song or its lyrics. This extends so far as confusion as to its name, with it often being mistakenly called When the Saints Come Marching In. As for the lyrics themselves, their very simplicity makes it easy to generate new verses. Since the first, second, and fourth lines of a verse are exactly the same, and the third standard throughout, the creation of one suitable line in iambic tetrameter generates an entire verse.

It is impossible to list every version of the song, but a common standard version runs:

    We are trav'ling in the footsteps
    Of those who've gone before,
    And we'll all be reunited,
    On a new and sunlit shore,

    Oh, when the saints go marching in
    Oh, when the saints go marching in
    Lord, how I want to be in that number
    When the saints go marching in

    And when the sun refuse to shine
    And when the sun refuse to shine
    Lord, how I want to be in that number
    When the sun refuse to shine

    And when the moon turns red with blood
    And when the moon turns red with blood
    Lord, how I want to be in that number
    When the moon turns red with blood

    Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
    Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
    Lord, how I want to be in that number
    When the trumpet sounds its call

    Some say this world of trouble,
    Is the only one we need,
    But I'm waiting for that morning,
    When the new world is revealed.

Often the first two words of the common third verse line ("Lord, how") are sung as either "Oh, Lord" or even "Lord, Lord."

Arrangements vary considerably. The simplest is just an endless repetition of the chorus. Verses may be alternated with choruses, or put in the third of 4 repetitions to create an AABA form with the verse as the bridge.

One common verse in "hot" New Orleans versions runs (with considerable variation) like thus:

    I used to have a playmate
    Who would walk and talk with me
    But since she got religion
    She has turned her back on me.

Some traditional arrangements often have ensemble rather than individual vocals. It is also common as an audience sing-along number. Versions using call and response are often heard, eg:

    Call: Oh when the Saints
    Response: Oh when the Saints!

[edit] Analysis of the traditional lyrics

The song is apocalyptic, taking much of its imagery from the Book of Revelation, but excluding its more horrific depictions of the Last Judgment. The verses about the Sun and Moon refer to Solar and Lunar eclipses; the trumpet (of the Archangel Gabriel) is the way in which the Final Judgement is announced. As the hymn expresses the wish to go to Heaven, picturing the saints going in (through the Pearly Gates), it is entirely appropriate for funerals.

Versions performed by Haley and others removes most religious imagery in favor of references to musicians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_the_Saints_Go_Marching_In



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