Hymn 39
(tune: I’ll Fly Away)

Continuing with the back stories behind the songs on  Echoes From the Trail, let’s look at the gospel hymn I’ll Fly Away, track 8.

One side benefit of specializing in folk music is that the vast majority of my repertoire is in the public domain, meaning they are not covered by a copyright. I do songs dating back as far as 400 years, with many from the 19th century. When choosing the songs for this CD, I thought every one I finally settled on was old enough to be copyright free. However, before submitting my CD for duplication, I decided to do a little research to confirm my assumption. I was really surprised to find that one song, I’ll Fly Away, was still covered by copyright.

I’ll Fly Away was written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley and published in 1932, so this one is still (at the time this CD was produced) protected by copyright. So I paid royalties for this track. Don’t worry, it is worth it. This is a great tune. I’ve been playing this song on my banjo in our Praise Band for years now and had to have it on the CD.

I’ll Fly Away has been called the most recorded gospel song ever, and the list of singers and groups who have recorded it is long and impressive. In interviews, Brumley has told how he was inspired to write this song… He says the idea came to him while he was picking cotton in Rock Island, Oklahoma and humming an old ballad that had the line, “‘If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,” It occurred to him that he could use this concept for a gospel style song. It took 3 years for him to flesh out the song.

As with all the songs on this CD, the Cherokee lyrics are completely independent of the original English version from which I use the tune. The Cherokee translates as a call to Jesus, starting out calling all with heavy burdens to listen to Jesus, Who has mercy on them. In the end it urgently says that Jesus alone can help sinners, including you.

Here is a 1 minute preview of this track: