"John the Revelator" is a traditional gospel bluescall and response song. It has been called "one of the most powerful songs in all of pre-war acoustic music ... [which] has been hugely influential to blues performers". American gospel-blues musician Blind Willie Johnson recorded "John the Revelator" in 1930 and subsequently a variety of artists have recorded their renditions of the song, often with variations in the verses and music. The song's title refers to the Apostle John, the author of the Book of Revelation, and quotes several passages from the Bible in the tradition of American spirituals.
Blind Willie Johnson recorded "John the Revelator" during his fifth and final recording session for Columbia Records in Atlanta, Georgia on April 20, 1930. Accompanying Johnson on vocal and guitar is Willie B. Harris (sometimes identified as his first wife), who sings the response parts of the song. Their vocals add a "sense of dread and foreboding" to the song, along with the chorus line "Who's that a writin', John the Revelator" "repeated like a mantra".
Johnson's lyrics reference a number of passages from the Bible:
[call] Well who's that writin'? [response] John the Revelator
This version was included on the 1965 album The Legendary Son House: Father of the Folk Blues (Columbia). An alternate version from the same session is found on the 1992 reissue Son House — Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions (Columbia).
^ abRevelation 1:1-3 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
^ abRevelation 5:1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
^Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
^Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
^Revelation 5:5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
^Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
^1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
^Exodus 3:1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
^Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
^Exodus 3:4-5 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
^Exodus 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
^Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
^Genesis 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
^Genesis 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
^Luke 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.
^Matthew 26:36-38 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
^Matthew 26:40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
^Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
^Matthew 28:5-7 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
^Matthew 26:32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. A variety of spiritual meanings have been attached to this line (see, for example, ).