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“Down by the Riverside:” An Anti-war Spiritual Song


People seek peace by causing destruction. We believe that the greater the destruction, the greater the chance for us to achieve peace. However, it is not the downfall of a person, a nation, or any race that’ll bring peace to humanity. It is kindness, love, and understanding, but these are also impossible to achieve because power and pride have become the center of our lives.

down by the riverside louis armstrong
End the wars! / Photo by Danny Hammontree

War seems to be our answer to our problem. This has been a similar occurrence, even in the past. The sad reality is that many innocent lives were taken away because two nations cave into their pride and honor. Is it worth it to sacrifice the greater good? Can’t we just lay down our weapons and achieve peace in a different way?

“Down by the Riverside,” A Hymn About Ending War

“Down by the Riverside” is a known spiritual song that centers its subject on ending wars. The simple repetitive words have a strong message to the world back in the days and even today.

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
I’m gonna study, study, war no more

The song was believed to be composed before the Civil War. Perhaps, it was written during a time when there was war because how can someone create something without experiencing such? The author of the song must have been tired of all the chaos that’s happening, that’s why he ended up writing the song.

Recordings of the Song

The first recording of the song was in 1920 by Fisk University Jubilee Quartet. After their recording, other artists followed: Mahalia Jackson, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, Elvis Presley, and more.

Louis Armstrong’s Rendition

One popular recording of this song was by the jazz singer Louis Armstrong. He covered the song for his albums Hello Louis! and Louis and the Good Book. His distinctive style of singing made his rendition a popular one.

Check out Louis Armstrong’s cover of “Down by the Riverside” here.

We hope that one day, the world will achieve peace not by sacrificing other people’s lives.

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