O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP

Album version

Well if I could I surely would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

Well Mary wore three links and chains
On every link was Jesus' name
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't weep
Go!

Go!

Well one of these nights bout 12 o'clock
This old world is gonna rock
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

Well Moses stood on the Red Sea shore
Smote' the water with a two by four
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

Alright!

(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(Pharaoh's army got drownded)
(O Mary don't you weep)

Well old Mr. Satan he got mad
Missed that soul that he thought he had
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

Brothers and sisters don't you cry
There'll be good times by and by
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't weep

Well oh Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

Solo, try it out!
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(Pharaoh's army got drownded)
(O Mary don't weep)
Hey!

Drums!

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
"No more water but fire next time"
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't (you) mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't (you) mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't weep

Everybody!
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(Pharaoh's army got drownded)
(O Mary don't weep)

O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn
Pharaoh's army got drownded
Oooooooh, Mary don't yoooooou

(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(O Mary don't you weep, don't mourn)
(Pharaoh's army got drownded)
(O Mary don't weep)


Bruce Springsteen recorded this traditional song with The Seeger Sessions Band during the "Seeger Sessions". The song is included on his 2006 cover album, We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions.

The Seeger Sessions consist of three recording sessions (a 2-days session on 01 and 02 Nov 1997, a 1-day session in Dec 2005, and a 1-day session in Jan 2006), during which all the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Bruce's New Jersey farmhouse. The songs were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted as Bruce and the band played. It is not clear during which one of the three sessions O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP was recorded.

The above lyrics are for Springsteen's version of O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP, as sung on the We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions album.

The in-studio performance of O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP is included on the DVD side of the DualDisc album.

The song was reported to have been rehearsed for The Seeger Sessions Tour by Springsteen with his Seeger Sessions Band on 13, 20, and 21 Mar and 06 and 07 Apr 2006 at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, NJ, and on 12 Apr 2006 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ. Some comments from the people who listened to the rehearsals:

O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP was played during all 4 public rehearsal shows for The Seeger Sessions Tour: 20, 24, 25, and 26 Apr 2006 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ.

Promoting the We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions album, Bruce and the Seeger Session Band performed a set of 4 songs (including O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP) early in the morning of 25 Apr 2006 (the album's release date) at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ, for ABC's Good Morning America. The song was broadcast in full during GMA's 8 o'clock hour on ABC.

O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP was also played on 30 Apr 2006 at New Orleans Fair Grounds in New Orleans, LA, when Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band closed the first weekend of the New Orelans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Pete Seeger, to whom the above album is dedicated, has recorded O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP. It can now be found on:

  • Live At Newport (1993 - Vanguard 77008)
  • American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1 (2002 - Smithsonian/Folkways).

This old gospel song from the southern United States has been recorded by many folk singers and exists in numerous versions; the above is one of them. The 1915 recording by The Fisk Jubilee Singers is the oldest known recording of any song on We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions.

The song was written in the early 19th century, and possibly earlier. Alternate titles include: "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep", "Mary Don't You Weep", and "Don't You Weep Mary". Read Dave Marsh's liner notes below for more details.

Thanks VickeB, farmer, Tim, Maurice, and davld for the lyrics help.


Dave Marsh's liner notes about O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP:

One of the most important Negro spirituals, predating the Civil War. The Mary of this song is not Mary the Blessed Virgin or Mary Magdalene, but Mary of Bethany who, with her sister Martha pleaded with Jesus to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead, their grief so great that Jesus wept himself at the sight of it (John 11: 28-35). A very common version of the song begins: "Oh Mary, don't you weep / Oh Martha, don't you mourn."

But the bulk of this version of the song is drawn from the Old Testament book of Exodus, especially the terrifying reassurance of the chorus that "Pharoah's Army got drown-ded" (always sung this way). The last verse here reaches even further back, all the way to the story of Noah in Genesis, to God's covenant, expressed in the "rainbow sign" that he will never again use a flood to destroy mankind (Genesis 9: 9-17). That the alternative apocalypse is fire pure folklore; James Baldwin took this image from "O Mary Don't You Weep" as the title of his most enduring account of American racial relations, The Fire Next Time.

Baldwin did so appropriately because, from slavery times down through the Southern civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, these images represent the struggle against bondage and the hope of liberation. "O Mary Don't You Weep" is the first of three songs on this album that were sung during the civil rights movement as "freedom songs."

Many of the verses here, particularly the first three, also crop up in other spirituals. These are called "floating verses." Almost all such verses are freedom metaphors.

The most famous recording of "O Mary Don't You Weep" is undoubtedly by the Sensational Nightingales; an interpolation by that group's leader, Rev. Julius Cheeks, inspired Paul Simon to write "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The earliest recording was made by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1915, and it has been recorded by innumerable gospel quartets and soloists since then. But not only by them: Mississippi John Hurt, Nat "King" Cole, Burl Ives, and Jimmy Witherspoon have all recorded it. Pete Seeger's version of the song is on various records from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival; it is also contained on American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1.