Blind Willie Johnson - Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed [1927]

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Blind Willie Johnson - Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed [1927]

"In My Time of Dying" (also called "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" or a variation thereof) is a traditional gospel music song that has been recorded by numerous musicians. The title line, closing each stanza of the song, refers to a deathbed and was inspired by a passage in the Bible from Psalms 41:3 "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness".
The lyrics "Jesus goin' a-make up my dyin' bed" appear in historian Robert Emmet Kennedy's Mellows – A Chronicle of Unknown Singers published in 1925, on Louisiana street performers, and also listed in the Cleveland Library's Index to Negro Spirituals. The variation "He is a Dying-bed maker" appears in the song "When I's Dead and Gone" as transcribed in 1924 or 1925 in the south-east. A close theme in English hymnary is found in Isaac Watts, and many derivative hymnals. In October 1926, Reverend J. C. Burnett recorded "Jesus Is Going to Make Up Your Dying Bed", but it was never issued. Blind Willie Johnson may have heard Burnett's song or otherwise learned some of his lyrics.
Blind Willie Johnson recorded the song during his first recording session on December 3, 1927, as "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" and the second take was released as his first single in 1928, backed by "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole". Johnson performed the song as a gospel blues with his vocal and slide guitar accompaniment, using an open D tuning with a capo resulting in a pitch of E♭. An initial pressing of 9,400 records showed Columbia's confidence in the song, who normally released fewer records for major stars such as Bessie Smith. A later pressing of 6,000 was very large for a debut and it was one of Johnson's most successful records.
In 1928, Rev. B.J. Hill and the Jubilee Gospel Team recorded "Lower My Dying Head" as a cappela song. In December 1929, Charlie Patton recorded a version with somewhat different lyrics as "Jesus Is A-Dying Bed Maker". On August 15, 1933, Josh White recorded the song as "Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed". White later recorded it between 1944 and 1946 as "In My Time of Dying", which inspired several popular versions.
In 1932, Martha Emmons published a nine-stanza, nine-refrains, version that she heard in Waco, Texas, under the title "Tone de Bell Easy". Two years later John and Alan Lomax printed a composite with 11 stanzas and 9 refrains.

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