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Sleep On Beloved / I Bid You Goodnight

[ Roud 15632 ; Ballad Index DTbidgni ; trad.]

Norma Waterson and Martin and Eliza Carthy sang the funeral song Sleep On Beloved in 1994 on Waterson:Carthy's eponymous debut album Waterson:Carthy. This track was reissued in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. They also sang it at their homecoming concert at Hull Truck Theatre on August 15, 2010 to celebrate Norma's 71st birthday. This was released in 2011 on their DVD Live at Hull Truck. Martin Carthy commented in their first recording's sleeve notes:

In the 1960s, the Incredible String Band renamed a song called I Bid You Goodnight which they learned from Jody Stecher's recordings of the great Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and his family, the Pinder family, and the song became, for some folkies, one of those great standards. A year or two ago John Howson visited Staithes to record the Fisherman's Choir, and was accompanied by Maggie Hunt who, at the same time, was interviewing the individuals involved. During conversations, a Mr Willie Wright sang a snatch of the Sankey hymn Sleep On Beloved which he described as a lowering down song at funerals, and which was clearly the same song as I Bid You Goodnight but in an earlier form, and when Norma heard it, she went to see Willie, who kindly proved her with the other verses. When we sang the song to Jody Stecher, he was enormously pleased, not least because its function as a funeral song in the Bahamian fishing community was identical to that in its North Yorkshire counterpart.

A website (no longer online) for an earlier version called The Christian's Good Night commented:

Words: Sarah Doudney, Psalms of Life (published by Houlston), 1871.
Music: Ira David Sankey.

Doudney wrote the lyrics on the occasion of a friend's death. Sankey saw them while in Bristol, England, and wrote music for them shortly thereafter. The song was sung at the funeral of preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The Incredible String Band's version mentioned in Martin Carthy's notes is part of their A Very Cellular Song on their 1968 album The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Joseph Spence sang I Bid You Goodnight with the Pinder Family in 1965 on the anthology The Real Bahamas in Music and Songs (Nonesuch H-2013 / H-72013), and he sang it in 1972 on his album Good Morning Mr Walker.

Blue Murder (basically the Waterson Family and Coope Boyes & Simpson) with Eliza Carthy in lead sang I Bid You Goodnight on the 1994 tribute album to Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family, Out on the Rolling Sea. This track was included in 2004 on the Watersons' 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song.

Bob Hudson noted:

This song began as a traditional “lowering” hymn for funerals. It made its way to the Bahamas and the repertoire of Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family. The Incredible String Band recorded it in the 1960s, and their version caught the attention of the Grateful Dead, who soon made it one of their signature numbers. At that point, the song reached a wide popular audience, and young folk enthusiasts began looking for the original Spence version. So it all comes full circle.

Jon Boden sang Sleep On Beloved as the September 10, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lady Maisery sang Sleep On Beloved in 2011 on their CD Weave & Spin. They commented in their liner notes:

There are many versions of this popular hymn, but it seems to have begun as some lyrics written by novelist and poet Sarah Doudney on the occasion of a friend's death in 1871, which Ira Sankey then wrote a tune for in 1884. It made its way to the Bahamas and into the repertoire of Joseph Spence and the Pinder family, which is the version Waterson:Carthy sang on their first album. We've picked a few of our favourite verses.

Andy Turner learned Sleep On Beloved from the 1997 collection West Gallery Harmony, edited by Gordon Ashman. He sang it as the March 25, 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Grateful Dead Family Discography has a comprehensive discography of And We Bid You Goodnight with more than 100 entries.

Lyrics

Waterson:Carthy sing Sleep On Beloved

Waterson:Carthy sing Sleep On BelovedLady Maisery sing Sleep On Beloved

Sleep on, beloved, sleep and take thy rest,
Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour's breast.
We love thee well but Jesus loves thee best,
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Sleep on, beloved, sleep and take thy rest,
Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour's breast.
We love thee well but Jesus loves thee best,
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Until our shadows from this earth are cast,
Until He gathers in His sheaves at last,
Until the twilight gloom is over past:
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Calm is thy slumber as an infant's sleep,
But thou shalt wake, no more to toil and weep.
Thine is a perfect rest, secure and deep:
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Until made beautiful by love divine
Thou in the likeness of thy Lord shalt shine,
And He will bring that golden crown of thine,
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Until the Eastern glory decks the skies,
And they that sleep in Jesus shall arise,
And He shall come, but not in lowly guise:
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Until we meet again before the throne
Clothed in the spotless robes He gives His own,
Until we know as we have known:
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Until we meet again before His throne
Clothed in the spotless robes He gives His own,
Until we know Him e'en as we are known:
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Blue Murder sing I Bid You Goodnight

Lay down my dear brother lay down and take your rest
Won't you lay your head down on your Saviour's breast
I love you oh but Jesus loves you best
goodnight goodnight
And I bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight Lord
And I bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight

Lay down my dear brother lay down and take your rest
Won't you lay your head down on your Saviour's breast
I love you oh but Jesus loves you best
And I bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight Lord

And in the morning bright early and soon
goodnight goodnight
Lord I go walking in the valley of the shadow of Death
goodnight goodnight
There's rod and staff shall comfort me
goodnight goodnight
Goodness and mercy shall follow me
goodnight goodnight
John the Wise said I saw the sign
goodnight goodnight
John said I saw the noble Lord's sign
goodnight goodnight
A for an Ark the wonderful boat
goodnight goodnight
She builded on the land getting water to float her
goodnight goodnight
Now it's B for the Beast at ending of the world
goodnight goodnight
Eat all the children that would not be good
goodnight goodnight
Remember right well remember right well
goodnight goodnight
I want to walk in Jerusalem just like John

Lay down my dear brother lay down and take your rest
Won't you lay your head down on your Saviour's breast
I love you oh but Jesus loves you best
goodnight goodnight
And I bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight Lord
And I bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed by Wolfgang Hell and Garry Gillard with thanks to Jim Dixon for corrections. Thanks to Bob Hudson for the notes.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr/Tune Add: I Bid You Goodnight.