"Kingdom Coming" or "The Year of Jubilo" is an upbeat folk tune dating from the American Civil War, in 1863, around the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Words and music were composed by Henry Clay Work.
While its lyrics are stereotypical African-American dialect of the time, the song celebrates new-found freedom, by slaves whose master has been frightened away by the Union military forces.
The outmoded lyrics are seldom heard nowadays. The song is usually played as a lively instrumental, as with the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War.
Work also wrote the song Babylon is Fallen which sees the Civil War from the perspective of the black soldiers fighting for the North.
Taken from the website below:
- Say, darkies, hab you seen de massa, wid de muffstash on his face,
- Go long de road some time dis mornin', like he gwine to leab de place?
- He seen a smoke way up de ribber, whar de Linkum gunboats lay;
- He took his hat, and lef' berry sudden, and I spec' he's run away!
- De massa run, ha, ha! De darkey stay, ho, ho!
- It mus' be now de kingdom coming, an' de year ob Jubilo!
In standard English
- Say, darkies, have you seen the master, with the moustache on his face,
- Go along the road some time this morning, like he's going to leave the place?
- He'd seen some smoke way up the river, where the Lincoln gunboats lay;
- He took his hat, and left very sudden, and I expect he's run away!
- The master runs, ha-ha! The darky stays, ho-ho!
- It must be now the Kingdom Coming, and the Year of Jubilo!
In popular culture
"Kingdom Coming" appears in two MGM animated cartoons directed by Tex Avery, The Three Little Pups and Billy-Boy, as well as in Michael Lah's Blackboard Jumble and Sheep Wrecked. The piece is whistled throughout all four pictures by a dimwitted wolf character voiced by Daws Butler (using the same slow Southern drawl he would later employ for Huckleberry Hound).
It also occasionally appears in Warner Bros. cartoons, such as being used throughout the 1938 Porky Pig cartoon Injun Trouble and its 1945 remake Wagon Heels, and the closing scenes of the 1945 Bugs Bunny cartoons The Unruly Hare and Hare Trigger.
In the 1940s, it was used as the opening theme for the NBC radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
John Wayne whistles this tune in the 1933 movie The Telegraph Trail and it is instrumental background music in another John Wayne film, John Ford's The Horse Soldiers (1959) (Hear the second piece in the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knQahiIpwYw)
A solo piano rendition of the song is included on jazz pianist Bill Carrothers' album, The Blues and the Greys, which features popular music from the time of the Civil War.
In the 1993 movie Who's the Man?, a church choir sings Thomas Dorsey's classic gospel song "Precious Lord". At one point the lead singer sings the word "Jubilai." It was pronounced that way, and spelled that way in the Closed Caption text.
- One of many websites with lyrics
- Original lyrics and MIDI music
- Sheet music for "Kingdom Coming", from Project Gutenberg