rolling stones we shall overcome unreleased 1993unreleased


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Rolling Stones unreleased: We Shall Overcome

Written by: Rev. Charles Albert Tindley
Recorded: Sandymount Studios (Ronnie Wood’s house), Kildare, Ireland, July-Sept. 1993; Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin, Ireland, Nov-Dec. 1993

From the Kennedy Center site:
“We Shall Overcome” has a long history with input from many people and places. Part of the melody seems to be related to two European songs from the 1700s, “Prayer of the Sicilian Mariners” and “O Sanctissima.” Enslaved Black people in the U.S. mixed and matched similar tunes in the songs “I’ll Be All Right” and “No More Auction Block For Me.”

Charles TindleyAfter 1900, it seems the lyrics of another gospel song, “I’ll Overcome Someday” by the Methodist minister and composer Reverend Dr. Charles Tindley, were added to the musical mix—though the music was very different. Around 1945, gospel arrangers Atron Twigg and Kenneth Morris apparently put together the essential pieces of the now-famous words and melody.

“We’ll Overcome” first appeared as a protest song during a 1945–1946 labor strike against American Tobacco in Charleston, South Carolina. African American women strikers seeking a pay raise to 30 cents an hour sang as they picketed. “I Will Overcome” was a favorite song of Lucille Simmons, one of the strikers. But she gave the song a powerful sense of solidarity by changing the “I” into “We” as they sang together. Other lyrics were improvised for pro-union purposes, including “We will organize,” “We will win our rights,” and “We will win this fight.”

In 1947, Simmons brought the song to Highlander Folk School and shared it with other labor activists there. Zilphia Horton, head of the school’s cultural program, learned it and later taught it to Pete Seeger. At some point, the nationally known folk singer revised the lyrics “We will” to “We shall.”

“We Shall Overcome” proved easy to learn and sing at different types of civil rights protests, such as sit-ins, marches, and huge rallies. “It’s the genius of simplicity,” Seeger said about the song in a later interview. “Any…fool can get complicated.”

The song spread rapidly as the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum. Protesters sang it as they marched for voting rights. They also sang it as they were beat up, attacked by police dogs, and hauled off to jail for breaking laws enforcing segregation. News and pictures of brutality shocked people across the U.S. and around the world.

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