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January 9

Listen to That Jolly Song of Merle Travis, “I Am a Pilgrim”

We see ourselves as pilgrims passing through this temporary world. For this reason, we have several songs on that subject. They talked of patience, endurance, and of looking forward to the bliss of the afterlife. Most are set to soft music as seen fit by their interpreters. Nevertheless, Merle Travis showed us that it won’t hurt if you jolly sing your journey song. Have a good watch of his full performance. Like Doc Watson, he’s also a superb guitarist who’s a pro in flat-picking.

“I Am a Pilgrim” by Merle Travis

Instead of the hymns “Fly Away” and “Amazing Grace,” I think I’ll be happy to have “I Am a Pilgrim” sung at my burial.

I’d rather leave good vibes through a song than sadness when I go.

Anyway, here are other recommended versions: Bill Monroe (1958), J.D Sumner (1965), Doc Watson featuring Merle Watson (1970), and the Oakridge Boys (1976), Johnny Cash (2003), and Willie Nelson (2010).

Song’s Anatomy

Aside from the usual search for a yonder city and the prospect of a reunion with long gone loved ones, this pilgrim song has some interesting illustrations added. There was the bathing in the river Jordan which is no doubt a reference to baptism. This baptism is central to the Christian belief and is customary a public announcement of being in union with Christ.

This was followed by the account of being made whole at the mere touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment. According to the gospel books, the woman who did that was healed after many years of bleeding. Those familiar with the story will have no difficulty understanding its significance. Since Jesus made healing and miracles his ministry on top of preaching, there was a correlation between the healing of the soul and the body.

So washed and healed, the soul was ready to go anytime.


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I am a pilgrim, Merle Travis


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