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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding Individual Songs

This guide will help you locate individual songs in printed music and on recordings. It also includes resources for verifying work titles and using song indexes.


This page explains how to search for spirituals using the library catalog. The box below includes general search tips, information about song titles, and recommended resources so that you can do some searching on your own. If you don't know where to start and want to see a list of printed music collections and song titles, see the box at the bottom of the page.

Search Tips for Spirituals

  1. Conducting a keyword search in the Library catalog using a song's title or arranger is always a great place to start.
    • Use the "Resource Type" filter on the left-hand side of the screen to limit your results to "Scores" and/or "Recordings."
  2. You can also use the advanced search option to search by subject.
    • Try searching "Spirituals (Songs)" or "African American spirituals" and limit your results to "Scores" and/or "Recordings."
    • Remember to always take a look at the topics listed in the catalog record to get hints for searching!

More often than not, individual songs will be found within a larger collection. Be sure to navigate to the "Contents" section of the item's record to see if it contains the song that you're looking for.

To browse for scores in person, check out call numbers M1670 (Collections) and M1671 (Separate Works) to find a majority of our collection of spirituals.

Because the performance of spirituals originated as an oral tradition, song titles can vary greatly due to the comprehension of the arranger, which is influenced by things like dialect, geography, preferred form, and more.

Example: "The Blind Man Stood On The Road and Cried"  has alternate titles, including (but not limited to):

  • "De blin' man stood on de road an' cried"
  • "Blind Man (sat by the road and he cried)"

 If you run into issues locating a score in our collection, it is important to search multiple versions of the title.

The following are books at MPAL that may be beneficial for identifying specific titles and arrangers to search for, along with providing historical context to inform your performance.

Notable Spirituals

The following is a list of notable collections that can be found at MPAL. See the individual item's record for a list of spirituals included in the collection. To see more collections, consult the Library catalog.

Not sure where to start? The following is a list of some of the most notable titles that you can use as search terms in the Library catalog.

Sorrow Songs

  • "The Blind Man Stood On The Road”
  • "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen"
  • "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"

Songs of Consolation and Faith

  • "Kumbayah"
  • "Give Me Jesus"
  • "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
  • "Little David"

Songs of Resistance, Defiance, and Deliverance

  • "Deep River"
  • "Go Down Moses"
  • "Roll Jordan Roll"
  • "Steal Away (to Jesus)"

Songs of Jubilation and Triumph

  • "Going to Shout All Over God's Heaven"
  • "Go Tell It On The Mountain"
  • "Little David, Play on Your Harp"

Songs of Judgement and Reckoning

  • "Didn't It Rain"
  • "I Want to Die Easy"
  • "My Lord, What a Morning"

Songs of Regeneration

  • "Every Time I Feel the Spirit"
  • "Weepin' Mary"

Songs of Spiritual Progress

  • "Done Made My Vow"
  • "I Know the Lord's Laid His Hands on Me"
  • "Lord, I Want to be Christian"

Songs of Transcendence

  • "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel"
  • "Let Us Break Bread Together"
  • "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"