December 3

Except My Almighty God, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”

The era of slavery had been a great influence on the creation of many spiritual songs. During this period, singing served as a therapeutic way for the slaves to ease their struggles in the hands of their captors. The African-American tribe was the most prominent group in pioneering spiritual songs on slavery. That’s given as they’d become slaves themselves for a long period of time.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Wade in the Water,” “Mary Don’t You Weep,” and “Give Me Jesus” are just some of the spiritual songs that made reference to slavery. Although these songs were written during the slavery era and had been described as “slave songs,” they convey deeper messages. Today’s story will feature another song of slavery named “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

About the Song

The exact date when the song “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” was written is unknown. However, the literature says it originated during the period of slavery. Also, it was only in 1867 when the song became available to the public for the first time. Since then, the tune quickly rose to popularity as many music artists began recording it. Among its notable covers are those by Marian Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Harry James, and Sam Cooke.

Here is, perhaps, the earliest recorded version of the song by Marian Anderson.

Through the years, and as many singers had performed the song, its title and lyrics evolved dramatically. Different groups of musicians and individual singers made some modifications to the song to fit it with their style and intent for recording it. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” also appeared on classical music art forms toward the latter part of the 19th century. Moreover, it was used countless times and in various ways in popular culture.

The Message

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” delivers a message that goes beyond the literal circumstance of its creator. While “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” was considered a slave song, it shows the narrator’s intimate relationship with God. In the opening line of the song, the narrator says,

Nobody knows the trouble
I’ve been through
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah!

The last line denotes the narrator glorifying his God. It’s like he’s implying that it means so much to him knowing that God knows what he goes through in life. Along with it comes a great trust that no matter what happens, God will stay true to His promise of not leaving or forsaking His children.

Learn and be more inspired by this song’s message as we listen to it below. Here is Louis Armstrong’s moving rendition.


Louis Armstrong, Negro Spiritual Song, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Slave Song

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