Saturday, October 10, 2015

All Day Long -- Anonymous

Whoever crafted the words may have been in the midst of a difficult day. At least, it might have been difficult by standards most middle-class Americans would consider normal. Might it have been in the middle of a cotton field, even perhaps like one in this picture? ‘It’s not fair’, or ‘I give up’ might have easily been the bitter words coming from the mouths of African-Americans who were responsible for the rich cultural tradition that we attach to the folk music we have today. Instead, this person wanted to say something in “All Day Long” that would draw his fellow travelers, his companions and like-strugglers, into a different emotional-psychological mindset. ‘Let’s not wallow, let’s look at this from a different angle’, you might imagine him saying. It’s an object lesson in how to make the most of one’s circumstances, and to look forward to something better.

Historians of African folk music suggest that its roots were largely in people engaged in struggle, making the words of songs like “All Day Long” so deeply meaningful. We know not the particular name of the individual who first mouthed the hymn’s concluding words about being ‘…on the King’s highway’, but we can guess, if the song’s traditional origin as an African folk tune is accurate, about his or her status. Many of the earliest hymns of this type derived from slaves working on plantations in the mid-19th Century. Others came upon the heels of this era, from those traveling to new areas in search of work as an exercise of their freedom, including along railroads through the old West. Blues and even some more contemporary rock-and-roll artists have their roots among the first African folk tunes. Was the artist a slave, or a fellow familiar with hunting work along the rail lines, perhaps dependent upon others for even his day-to-day survival? That would have been the kind of person who leaned heavily upon God for his protection, and who could have said he’d had ‘a glorious day’ at its end when his needs were met through providential intervention. What does such a person need, outside of God? ‘Nothing’, he might answer. Perhaps that’s why the song’s focus from the outset is on being with Him. Complete and utter reliance on another--even God; is that something you or I really crave?

“All Day Long” seems like a simple, harmless set of words, at least at first glance. If you’re like me, you may have sung ‘em around a campfire in a remote place, perhaps holding hands with others and examining the stars for the various constellations. That’s a peaceful memory. Am I willing to be with Him ‘all day long’ as the original writer might have been? In a place or situation that I do not control, I might think of being with Him as more than a choice. He’s essential -- in fact I won’t make it if He’s not there. Where’s that peaceful, warm feeling now? My cozy campfire, secure cabin, sleeping bag or bunk, and companionship of friends are indeed blessings from Him. But there’s more. He’s so much more.  

See this link for information on American folk music:

See link here for brief history of African-American folk music:

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