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wade in

Wade in the Water

"Wade in the Water" (Roud 5439) is the name of a Negro spiritual first published in New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901) by John Wesley Work II and his brother, Frederick J. Work.

The main chorus is:

Wade in the water.
Wade in the water, children.
Wade in the water.
God's gonna trouble the water.

The song relates to both the Old and New Testaments. The verses reflect the Israelites escape out of Egypt as found in Exodus:14. The chorus refers to healing: see John 5:4, "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."

Many internet sources and popular books claim that songs such as "Wade in the Water" contained explicit instructions to fugitive slaves on how to avoid capture and the route to take to successfully make their way to freedom. This particular song allegedly recommends leaving dry land and taking to the water as a strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one's trail. "Wade in the Water" was made popular in 1966 by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1967),Big Mama Thornton in 1968, and in 1997 by Eva Cassidy. It was also recorded by Graham Bond in 1965 and Billy Preston in 1967. The melody was used for the 1988 Tony Toni Tone hit, Little Walter.

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