Go Down Moses / When Israel Was in Egypt's Land

This is an Afro-American spiritual, about the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, based on Exodus 5:1.

It was widely known by enslaved people in America, and widely associated with the anti-slavery movement as a song about freedom. There are various claims about who may have written the song: A version was transcribed by ear by Reverend Lewis Lockwood and published in 1861, although it is different to the song as sung by many groups. However due to the dates of this and other possible first-versions, it is clear that the song is now in the public domain, and the author + composer can only be  identified as Unknown.

The words have an irregular meter - and the song is virtually always set to (an arrangement of) the tune which is also known as GO DOWN MOSES. It is usually sung as a call-and-response: the leader sings the verses and the choir or congregation responds with "Let my people go!" and the refrain.


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Jazz version: lead singer and chorus, professional recording:

Singer with piano - professional recording:

21st century arrangement - singer with chorus and band:

Professional choir with orchestra:

Choir with band:

Duet with guitar and flute:

Youth choir with band - live performance:

Instrumental - piano:


When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go,
oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land,
tell old Pharaoh: Let my people go.

The Lord told Moses what to do,
Let my people go,
to lead the Hebrew children through,
Let my people go. 

As Israel stood by the waterside,
Let my people go,
at God's command it did divide,
Let my people go.

When they had reached the other shore,
Let my people go,
they let the song of triumph soar,
Let my people go.

Lord, help us all from bondage flee,
Let my people go,
and let us all in Christ be free,
Let my people go.

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