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American Negro Songs

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American Negro Songs
230 Folk Songs and Spirituals, Religious and Secular. By John W. Work. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 1998. Pg. 259.) ISBN: 978-0-486-40271-0.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - June 3, 2009

John W. Work (John Wesley Work III, 1901-1967) was an African-American musicologist and scholar who specialized in African-American folklore and music. He was associated with Fisk University and worked with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. In his book, American Negro Songs: 230 Folk Songs and Spirituals, Religious and Secular, Work compiled a representative collection of folk songs that highlight the African-American experience. In addition to the songs in this collection, Work provides an informative overview the origins and the various forms of African-American music. Detailed information is provided on the history of African-American spirituals, blues, work songs, and social songs.

This book was originally published in 1940 under the title American Negro Songs and Spirituals. Despite the passage of time, this book still stands as one of the most outstanding collections of African-American folk songs. Still in print, this is an essential reference for singers, historians, and folklorist. Complete lyrics and music are included for each song. Work did not include individual notes for each song. However a great deal of information is contained in the five introductory essays that precede the actual songs. In these essays he also explores the role that African Culture, and Slavery, have played in the development of African-American music.

The essays alone make this book a worthwhile contribution to the body of work on African-American musicology. However, it is the songs that will be of most interest to most readers. The songs in this collection include both well-known classics and uncommon songs, such as:
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