Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (lyrics & video)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics and two videos of the civil rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" (Also given as "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round".)

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Aint gonna let nobody
Turn me 'round
Turn me 'round
Aint gonna let nobody
Turn me round
I'm gonna keep on walkin'
Keep on talkin
Marchin into freedom land

[Follow the above pattern for other verses such as:
Aint gonna let (add the name a prominent segregationist or a racist public figure).

Aint gonna let no jailhouse

Aint gonna let no policeman
*Notice that the end of the first line allows for improvisation.

revised June 4, 2018

The African American civil rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" is based on an African American Spiritual "Don't Let Nobody Turn Me Round". A version of that song was included in the 1940 book Negro Folk Songs (proofs from American Negro Songs and Spirituals) edited by John W. Work.

It's possible that the civil rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn You Round" is based on an early 20th century African American Gospel song instead of a late 19th century Spiritual. (I follow what I think is the general rule that any song that was composed after the end of the 19th century isn't a Spiritual even if its structure is the same as or similar to the structure of Spirituals.) Also, Spirituals rarely if ever have a known composer, but most Gospel songs, including early Gospel songs usually have a known composer/s. I've not found any information about the composer/s of "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn You Round". However, whether "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" is a Spiritual or an early Gospel song doesn't change the fact that most versions of it are probably in the public domain.

Here's the lyrics to that version:


Traditional (African American) Spiritual

Don't you let nobody turn you aroun',
Turn you aroun', turn you aroun',
Don't you let nobody turn you aroun',
Keep the straight an' the narrow way.

I was at the river of Jordan,
Baptism was begun,
b John baptized the multitude,
But he sprinkled nary a one.
The baptis' they go by water,
The methodes' go by lan',
But when they get to heaven
They'll shake each other's han'.

You may be a good baptis'
An' a good methodes' as well,
But if you ain't the pure in heart
Yo' soul is boun' for hell.

American Negro Songs, John W. Work, Dover Publications.

The title of this book suggests that "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" is a Spiritual and not an early Gospel song. However, it's possible that that song was composed in the early twentieth century, and might therefore be an early Gospel song and not an actual Spiritual. That said, I haven't found any information about the composer/s of that song which lends strength to the view that the early version that is given above is itself (or was derived from) an African American Spiritual.

Like other civil rights songs, the words to "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me "Round" aren't fixed. However, that civil rights song was sung in unison which means that those singing it knew in advance which verses were to be sung, and in which order the verses were sung. In contrast, the earliest renditions of the Gospel song probably were sung using a call & response pattern.

Click for two videos of Gospel versions of "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Round" - one by The Fairfield Four from the 1980s and one sung by Albertina Walker. The Fairfield Four first recorded this song in 1947. I'm not sure about the recording date for that Albertina Walker video. But I think it was in the early 2000s.


These videos are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube with the oldest dated video given first.

Example #1: Joan Baez -Marching up to freedom land

Mata Pöze, Uploaded on Aug 4, 2006

Joan baez singing acapella
Example #2: Selma lord Selma-ain't gonna let nobody turn me around

0bigcat, Published on Mar 9, 2012
"Selma, Lord, Selma is a 1999 American film based on true events that happened in March 1965, known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The film tells the story through the eyes of an 11-year-old African American girl named Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett). It premiered as a television movie on ABC on January 17, 1999.

Example #3: The Freedom Singers Perform at the White House

infomisa, Published on Sep 16, 2012

Example #4: Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around

Justiciarodante, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Published on Apr 24, 2014

Music : "Ain' Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" by Sweet Honey In The Rock, James Horner

Click for additional videos of the civil rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around".

Thanks for visiting this Civil Rights Songs blog.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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