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  • Writer's pictureThe Rough & Tumble

Down by the Riverside

Today on Double Americana we're performing the great Negro spiritual, "Down By The Riverside." Also known as "Aint Gonna Study War No War," this was Mallory's high school fight song, which is ironic on account of it's pacifist nature. Nevertheless, ever time she hears it, she experiences an overwhelming spike in school pride. Go Panthers!

Originally sung by slaves before the Civil War, it was an expression of religious hope but also, as was common in spirituals, an allusion to escaping slavery; the River Jordan representing the Ohio River, the border between slave states and free states. Sung in many times and places since then, including by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson and many of the usual faces of folk music, "Down By The Riverside" became an anti-war song during the Vietnam conflict and remains firmly a protest song.

With as much arms bolstering and nuclear intimidation as we've seen in recent weeks, it would serve us well to remember that to study war means to study destruction, and that peace between people is not a hope reserved for the afterlife but can be found here and now.

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