How Our Song Came About


All truth passes through 3 stages:

“First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident".

Arthur Schopenhauer

In our research of the historic song, Battle Hymn of the Republic, we discovered two different accounts of its origin. We would like to share some of the song’s history, and then share how we ended up writing our version of this famous song.

Shortly after our book was completed, a young woman called me from New Mexico. She wanted to share something that she had found amazing after reading my chapter about the song. She to had been having some unusual experiences and like myself, decided to write a book about her experiences. Interestingly, she found herself humming the melody of Battle Hymn of the Republic whenever she wrote about her experiences. She later became curious about the song, so she asked her minister to research the song’s history for her.  Following is what her pastor’s research revealed.

The melody originally came from an old Southern camp meeting song titled, “Say, Brother, Will You Meet Us On Canaan’s Happy Shore?”

According to our own research, from the website,“Soon, though, a new version appeared that hitched the old tune to a more militant cause. When the abolitionist John Brown was executed in 1859, someone created a new, fiercer set of lyrics; the song now declared that "John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave. His soul is marching on!"


By the time the Civil War began in 1861, the John Brown version of the song had spread throughout the Union army. Soldiers added new verses as they marched through the South, including one that promised to hang Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from a tree. Meanwhile, Confederate soldiers answered back with their own version, in which John Brown was hanging from a tree.

The version that we know today came to be when an abolitionist author, Julia Ward Howe, overheard Union troops singing "John Brown’s Body" and was inspired to write a set of lyrics that dramatized the rightness of the Union cause. Within a year this new hymn was being sung by civilians in the North, Union troops on the march, and even prisoners of war held in Confederate jails.

Howe’s lyrics have remained popular for over a century. When you listen to—or even sing—this song, you might ask yourself what has made the tune so enduring, and so popular, over the decades.


In an article titled, Hey Brother Who Wrote This Melody?, Robert Allen shares what he calls a "far more bizarre, though equally inaccurate, theory for the origin of the tune". He states that it was published in a semi-ancient volume of arcane musical lore entitled "History of American Music".

Lieutenant Chandler, in writing of Sherman's March to the Sea, tells that when the troops were halted at Shady Dale, Georgia, the regimental band played 'John Brown's Body,' whereupon a number of negro girls coming from houses supposed to have been deserted, formed a circle around the band, and in a solemn and dignified manner danced to the tune. The negro girls, with faces grave and demeanor characteristic of having performed a ceremony of religious tenor, retired to their cabins. It was learned from the older negroes that this air, without any particular words to it, had long been known among them as the 'wedding tune.' They considered it a sort of voodoo air, which held within its strains a mysterious hold upon the young colored women, who had been taught that unless they danced when they heard it played they would be doomed to a life of spinsterhood.

"'John Brown's Body'" was originally a `"voodoo air"?!!`, writes Allen. "Such a notion can be highly seductive. One easily imagines an old African shaman, enslaved on a Georgia plantation, saying to his followers that they would become free if they offered their white owners the gift of a song. The song had to be their 'Wedding Dance' with new words which, when sung, would slowly work their way into the thoughts and hearts of the white people until all the slaves of the South would be free. Through this magic song, a dead abolitionist, John Brown, was brought back to life (zombie fashion?), and a mighty army marched to this tune, bringing freedom to the long-suffering Africans".

Please note that my sister and I do not necessarily believe that the African girls performed a ceremonial dance in order to not be doomed to a life of spinsterhood. Instead we believe that is how this old and wise African shaman had to explain the girls' actions as to not upset their white visitors who were viewing this dance. After all, it wouldn’t be sensible for the African shaman to tell these white visitors, that this was a dance and song to soften the white man’s hearts on the issue of slavery, and treat them more humanely, which we believe was probably closer to the truth.

The article sums it up beautifully; “Who really wrote the tune that was used for 'John Brown's Body' and later for Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic?" We believe that is was originally written by slaves. Perhaps we will never know for sure.

Now for Our Story of How This Amazing Song Came Into Our Lives:

One particular evening, I was lying on my bed, and soon found myself taken away by our Galactic friends in an elevator-like container that floated through the galaxy. I remember drifting through the timelessness of space, once again viewing the awesomeness of it. Both while in the box-like structure, and upon returning to my bed, I heard a song being played as though it were on the radio. I recognized the tune which is a familiar song in our country. The melody was to the song Battle Hymn of the Republic. I had no idea why this particular song was playing for me to hear. I remember thinking that, outside of a July 4th celebration, I never thought of that song.

Shortly after that experience, my sister and I began to have an interesting series of coincidences that continued to bring this particular melody back into our awareness. For instance, my sister invited me to a concert to hear an incredible a cappella singing group, called Sweet Honey In The Rock. We were so moved by their inspiring songs that we decided like many other concert goers, to buy their CD at the intermission. Unfortunately, they had sold out by the time we got to the front of the table. A week or so later, Earlene still desiring to buy their CD, stopped at a Blockbuster music store and purchased one. To our amazement, we noticed a song on this particular CD entitled Sojourners Battle Hymn, which is about slaves who were freed to fight in the Civil War. Coincidentally, it is to the melody of Battle Hymn of the Republic. It is very moving as you hear the marching of footsteps representing these proud African slaves' desire to demonstrate their patriotism and win their freedom.


The next coincidence involving this melody occurred when we went to a musical exhibit called Wade In The Water. It featured the history of black gospel music from the 1950s and 1960s. As we walked along, my sister excitedly called me to see an exhibit of Sojourner Truth. We were both shocked to see a huge display detailing the entire history of the various lyrics of this same melody. All three renditions were displayed. The display included Battle Hymn of the Republic, Sojourner’s Battle Hymn and John Brown’s Body which was an earlier version of this melody before Battle Hymn of the Republic was written by Julia Ward Howe in 1862.  Ms. Truth’s version memorialized the African slaves who were to fight in the Civil War. What was so interesting about Sojourner Truth’s version was that she composed words to this and other familiar melodies in spite of the fact she had never learned to read or write. The posters really drew the viewer into a time gone by and, for us, became another interesting piece of a puzzle that was unfolding before our very eyes. After the exhibit, we pondered what had been the significance of this melody once again, being brought to our awareness.


The last coincidence, but certainly not the least, was the fact that the Mars Pathfinder, sent by NASA to collect soil samples and explore the surface of Mars, landed on the red planet on July 4, 1997. A 12 year old by the name of Valerie Ambroise of Bridgeport, Ct., competed in an international competition of nearly 17,000 entrants who wrote essays on how a planetary rover named for their heroine would translate these accomplishments to the Martian environment. Representatives from NASA's headquarters and Jet Propulsion Laboratory selected Ms. Ambroise's essay, which proposed naming the rover for Sojourner Truth, as the winning entry.

The rover was aptly named “Sojourner,” because it meant "traveler". Ms. Truth explained that God had directed her to leave her home and travel to the north, which was a distance from her home to begin preaching her message against slavery and equality for women. Rightfully, NASA named the rover after this great African-American as its job was to travel to Mars to seek out new information, which might propel humankind in a new direction.   Reading about Sojourner Truth writing of her vision reminded us of the song once again.   Was the voice of this great ancestor trying to come forth and tell us something from another realm?  



On Memorial Day of 1997, we were at Earlene's house contemplating all of the interesting coincidences that had occurred around this melody. Earlene suddenly told me that she believed we should write our own lyrics similar to Battle Hymn of the Republic and Sojourner’s Battle Hymn except we would make our song about man’s emergence into the Galactic family of planets. Of course, I thought that she was crazy. I immediately chimed in, “We are no songwriters; we should hire someone to write the song". Her response was “Shurlene, you can’t just go to a professional songwriter, explain these other worldly experiences, and ask him to encapsulate it in a song to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic”. She went on to explain that this had to be our job and that perhaps this was the reason I had brought the song back from my experience with our Galactic friends - and perhaps that was why we were experiencing all of these coincidences regarding the song. Earlene began writing and handed me a pen and paper.  I decided to give it a shot.

By the time we finished, we had written three verses each. When Earlene’s husband, Freddie, returned home, we sang our new version to him. He loved it.   Freddie has been so supportive through the years of our work. Once he even said, "there’s never a dull moment with the two of you around".


We were not certain, but we do believe that the creation of our song was the underlying purpose of the strange unfolding of events surrounding it. After writing our new version of the new song, all of the coincidences surrounding the song ended. We named our new song - Galactic Hymn of Earth’s Emergence - Our World Anthem.

In closing, we hope that we have served well in our attempt to describe both humanity’s and earth’s emergence into dimensions of time and space that have previously lain just below the surface of human consciousness.