Heard this morning on gdradio.net, Furthur singing "And We Bid You Goodnight" on their recent concert tour. Available on line an audio clip from their Feb. 6 concert in Orlando and a whole host of YouTube clips with fuzzy video and audio that isn't much better. Some tour coverage in Glide magazine. Turns out it's a cover of a old, funky spiritual from the Bahamas.
Hadn't heard the song before. Loved it. Googled it. Found out from the Grateful Dead Lyric & Song Finder it was "[s]ung a capella by the Grateful Dead to close many of their concerts in the late sixties and the beginning of the seventies - and then revived again in 1989-91." It's a funeral song. Complete lyrics and discography of earlier versions, including Martin Carthy and Aaron Neville (whose version is definitely worth a listen, too), tracing back to a Nonesuch vinyl LP including a field recording of Joseph Spence and the Pindar family of Andros, in the Bahamas. A full audio clip (2:48) available on the Nonesuch website. Here it is below, as the Grateful Dead performed it July 17, 1989, at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wis.
In the thread in Mudcat Cafe, someone worked out chords for the Martin Carthy-Watterson Family version like this:
[C] Sleep on beloved, [F] sleep and take thy [C] restAlso in Mudcat Cafe, extended quotation from liner notes on the Real Bahamas album (Nonesuch, 1965) concerning a "distinctly Bahaman style of singing [that] developed simultaneously with the ... American Negro spiritual." As quoted by a participant in the thread, screen name Barbara, the notes add:
Lay down thy head up-[G]on thy [C] Saviour's [G] breast
[F] We love thee well but [C] Jesus loves thee best
Good-[F]night, good-[G]night, good[C]night
The "rhyming spiritual" is the distinctive Bahaman type of religious song. "Rhyming" simply means pronoucing rhymes against a melodic background of voices. The rhymer -- the lead singer -- sings a memorized or improvised rhythmic narrative part that continues to build in intensity while the other singers repeat a chorus behind him -- that is, they sing the song. Traditionally, the song contains some specific Biblical reference; the rhyming is an emotional musical exposition of the pertinent Bilbical story -- or it is in some manner related to the subject matter of the song. The rhyming style reached its greatest heights during the sponge fishing in the 1930s.The latter part of "And we bid you goodnight" is a rhyming spiritual.
There is a West African tradition of singing sermons which has been carried on, and perhaps even improved upon, in the New World. All through the American South and in the Northern Negro ghettoes, church services are conducted by preachers who bring their congregations to the point of hysteria by the gradual transition during the sermon from speech to song -- song of trememdous intensity and power. Rhyming seems to be the combination of the traditions of singing sermons and African drum and bell rhythms. The basic rhythmic pattern in rhyming is one that is found often in contemporary West African intrumental music, carried by the drums or tongueless bell -- a rhythm that has been popularized in America and recently in England, as the "Bo Diddly Beat." While there is some drumming in the Bahamas (practiced most probably by the descendants of those Negroes who were brought directly to the Bahamas from Africa), it had been forbidden in the mainland colonies and had to go underground so that the Negroes who moved to the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands after the Civil War developed a song accompaniment of intricate handclapping to make up for for the lost drums and bells. In the Bahamas, where there is little hand-clapping, the singing sermon became the means for utilizing this and other rhythms. Other features of African music, such as the call-and-response vocal pattern, all found their way into Bahaman song.