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"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is an African-American spiritual song, compiled by John Wesley Work, Jr., dating back to at least 1865, that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol because its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus:
|“||Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;|
go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.
In 1963, the musical team Peter, Paul and Mary, along with their musical director, Milt Okun, adapted and rewrote "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as "Tell It on the Mountain", their lyrics referring specifically to Exodus and using the phrase "Let my people go," but referring implicitly to the Civil Rights struggle of the early 1960s. According to Religious Studies professor and Civil Rights historian Charles Marsh, it was African American Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer who combined this song with the spiritual "Go Down Moses," taking the last line of the chorus, "Let my people go" and substituting it in the chorus of "Go Tell it on the Mountain" (Marsh, Charles, God's Long Summer, Princeton, 1997, page 47). Marsh does not document this claim, but given that Hamer was highly active in Civil Rights work beginning in the 1950s, and that the use of the Exodus story and the singing of spirituals played a central role in her activities, this claim is compelling. The song was recorded by Yarrow, Stookey and Travers on their Peter, Paul and Mary album In the Wind and was also a moderately successful single for them. (US #33 pop, 1964). A version by Little Big Town reached the Top 40 on the Hot Country Songs charts, reaching #35.
Other artists who have recorded the song (chiefly on either Christmas-themed music albums or collections of spirituals or folk songs) include: