Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

The Bird Sings Oral Tradition Song Library

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

A traditional African-American spiritual. Can be sung at the same time as “Wade in the Water” and “I Wanna Die Easy”, an arrangement I learned from Ysaye Barnwell.

Composer & Copyright

Public domain.

Recording

This recording is by Lisa G. Littlebird.

Standalone track:

With the other two spirituals:

Lyrics

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child (x3)
A long way from home

Teaching Notes

*Important Note!* When sharing spirituals in song circles, I make a point of acknowledging that I am a white woman who has learned the songs from well-respected African-American songleaders, and received their blessing and encouragement to share them. When sharing songs from other cultures, and especially those deeply tied to complex histories and stories of people of color, there are a variety of things worthy of paying care-filled attention to. I do my best to study and share the histories of these songs along with the songs themselves, to use them as an opportunity to educate those present and more deeply connect with the very real and painful history of slavery in my country of origin. I deeply believe in the sharing these songs as a tool for cultural healing. And there are some environments when sharing them may not be appropriate, such as a song circle where another songleading person of color is present and can share the song instead. These are complex, current and ongoing conversations without easy answers. We are actively engaged in these conversations in Flight School – I welcome you to take the course and join us!

Most Americans are at least somewhat familiar with this song and it is easy to teach. (This will be new to most non-Americans.) The different, lower note of the word “feel” on the second line often requires extra attention.

A note about the song: this spiritual has a few layers of depth to consider and acknowledge when teaching. Spirituals like this are American slave songs. Most slaves not only lost their mothers and children, but as this song more likely refers to, they lost their homeland of Africa.

3

Level of teaching speed/ difficulty (1 = very easy, 10 = very challenging)

 

 

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