down by the riverside
"Down by the Riverside" (also referred to as "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" and "Gonna Lay Down My Burden") is a spiritual, with roots dating back to the pre-Civil War era. It is believed to have been first published in 1918 in Plantation Melodies: A collection of Modern, Popular and Old-time Negro-Songs. Because of its pacifistic imagery, "Down by the Riverside" has been used as an anti-war protest song, especially during the Vietnam War.
Background and performance tips on
"Down by the riverside"
by mark braud
Gospel music has infiltrated the New Orleans jazz repertoire since the very early days of jazz. Although gospel songs were traditionally played by jazz bands at funerals or church, it is now common that these songs are also played in secular venues. “Down by the Riverside” is an example of such a song, adapted by jazz musicians to fit the New Orleans jazz or brass band style. It has been a staple in New Orleans jazz since at least the early 1920s.
Below, I recommend listening to the Olympia Brass band’s version, from the compilation record: The Best of the Early Years (Preservation Hall, Jan. 27, 2004).
This version of “Down by the Riverside” is a great example of how this song would be played at a New Orleans second line (street parade). It is played energetically, with traces of the melody implied throughout.
Notice how there is a call-and-response element during the vocal chorus—the words “down by” are sung back by the band. This comes from the church tradition of a lead vocalist singing a melody punctuated by responses from the choir.
As with most New Orleans brass band music, the use of riffs creates a strong sense of groove, which provides a foundation for improvisation by other members of the band.