Etta James – Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Of course, this is a traditional spiritual performed by hundreds if not thousands of performers besides Etta James. It might be too jubilant an arrangement for a tune about finding relief from slavery through death?

Writer Vy Higginsen, as cited in the collection of spirituals by Gwendolin Sims Warren, “Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit,” explained that a chariot-like vehicle was used by black slaves in the Carolinas to move tobacco around. The chariot came to be seen as a transport to swing low from the skies to fly the people back to freedom in Africa.


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